Album Review: Teleman – Brilliant Sanity

By on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 12:00 pm

Teleman Brilliant Sanity album coverA few years ago, there was some question (and reasonably so) as to whether Teleman would cut the mustard. Cult rock favourite Pete and the Pirates had disbanded, with three core members moving on to start the more pop-orientated band. In their summer 2014 debut album ‘Breakfast’, they strode out in fashion, using transport as a metaphor for bad relationships and death. This was done not necessarily to soften the blow being delivered, but to showcase eloquent lyrics and smart songwriting in a series of toe-tappers. It’s an intelligent album I still listen to frequently. Similarly, in their second outing on Moshi Moshi tomorrow with ‘Brilliant Sanity’, romantic disappointments aren’t so much spelled out as terrible things that befall good people. Instead, they’re put through a filter where people who sin and do bad things (or think they are doing as much) can come out on the other side and can laugh and sing about it.

That’s right. This is an album of well-crafted pop songs about hell and the devil. Or something like that. And Teleman make sure the journey is well worthwhile, with a brand new set of infectious melodies guaranteed to get in your head and stay there for a good, long while. Lead singer and guitarist Tommy Sanders’ witticisms will also make you chuckle but more importantly, think. On production duties for the album was Dan Carey, of Speedy Wunderground and Kate Tempest superstardom collab fame, with whom they collaborated on for the 2015 limited edition Speedy single ‘Strange Combinations’. Carey’s suggestion of letting three synthesisers lead the aesthetic of the LP, giving it a futuristic feel. Already previously unveiled singles from the new release are the minor key masterpiece ‘Fall in Time’ and superb earworm ‘Düsseldorf’:

I am suffering from the same quandary I had with ‘Breakfast’: I can’t decide if Tommy Sanders is a hopeless romantic, a cynical git, or both. In any event, driving standout ‘Glory Hallejujah’ is where you should probably start, working your way outward from Sanders’ thoughts on a “happy ever after” that never happened despite his pained “working at the coalface / digging up the love for you”. Like ‘Monday Morning’ on the previous album, it’s evident he’s got an axe to grind with an ex and is disappointed in himself “feeling very lonesome / feeling like a perfect fool” over a lover who isn’t giving him what he needs. But he’s the one with the power, resolute that whatever good or bad comes out of this and happens, he’s in control: “give me everything you’ve got / how ever do you want me / I’m never going to make this stop”. As is appropriate for a song with the word ‘Glory’ in its name, the song has a sweeping grandeur, culminating in Sanders holding an incredible note. Here and on the dark yet oh so funky ‘Drop Out’ with its bluesy keyboard chords, where he accepts that “I wouldn’t bend, so I broke the mould”, he’s cognisant that his choices in life may not been conventional or common sense, they were his choices to make and he’ll be happy to live with the consequences.

In the hardest rocking number on the LP, ‘Tangerine’, we’re confronted with a joyful Eastern melody accompanied by guitar chords begging for air guitar play. I’ve considered the woman in question who “came from overseas / just to dance that foxtrot with me” is American, as the fruit in the title are called satsumas in Britain. Hmm… Perhaps the tune came from their preoccupation with the Vietnamese restaurant across the road from Carey’s HQ in Streatham, or their decision to set the mood for each song’s recording by using coloured lighting, both noted in the press sheet?

From ‘Tangerine’, we go into the sweetly poppy ‘English Architecture’ and its bouncy, sci-fi synth notes. Sanders wistfully desires for a real relationship within a whirlwind romance, bemoaning that “maybe I’m waiting for a bell to ring, or a symphony to play” to make things more permanent, although he begs, “take my shoes away from me, and I will stay / and I could lie here and fantasise that nothing’s going to change”. That same footgear are revisited in two reflective, softer songs: ‘Canvas Shoe’ and album closer ‘Devil in My Shoe’, a reflective, softer torch song to missing out, which I’m guessing is an allusion to time marching on, getting older and taking steps in a direction that hopefully is, but might not always be wiser.

That’s the beauty of ‘Brilliant Sanity’, its overall optimism, and at a higher level than was on ‘Breakfast’. On the chugging along title track, we’re confronted with “losing everything I’ve ever had / I’ve lost everything in a house fire” and terrible things in life, yet the human trait of resiliency allows us to regroup, restart, rebuild. Sanders sings, “You can take anything you like / it’s all coming back in the end sometime”: a comforting sentiment. Brilliant? A resounding yes.


‘Brilliant Sanity’, the sophomore album from London-based Teleman, is out tomorrow (the 8th of April) on Moshi Moshi. You can listen back to a live session the band did for Marc Riley on Wednesday on BBC iPlayer here. For more coverage on Teleman on TGTF, go here.

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