Fuzzystar - Telegraphing - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Fuzzystar - Telegraphing

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2017-04-28

It’s sort of amazing. My Gordon setter Fiona always follows me into the music room whenever a band from Scotland is on the stereo. A Gordon setter, for those who don’t know, is a Scottish setter named for the 4th Duke of Gordon who helped develop the breed. Well, my Fiona heard an earful of Edinburgh’s Fuzzystar’s Telegraphing, and took her customary place between the speakers. Like I said, it’s sort of amazing and without explanation, except, perhaps, it may have something to do with the dog treat in my pocket.  My Scottish setter lassie may be an upland game bird dog that enjoys a treat, but she also has a good nose for a great tune.

Fuzzystar is really Andy Thompson’s show. He’s the one up front with the deeply melodic voice and great songs. However, he is assisted by assorted friends who help him produce a pretty great singer/songwriter rock record. I say that because, ultimately, it’s the songs that count here. It says somewhere that this sounds like The Cribs. Sure. But they are a band that plays rock music with songs. Fuzzystar is a band that plays songs with rock music. And what a batch of tunes they are.

I love an album with a one-two punch. “Angel Transporting” has a clever guitar hook that is repeated throughout the song. And, quite frankly, it’s so catchy that it was repeated over and over in my head long after the music stopped. Andy Thompson’s voice floats into the spaces between the guitar bits. This is certainly rock music, but the melodies are so comforting and filled with patience. Perhaps that is their strength. That juxtaposition between rock band and sincere folk singer is the Fuzzystar sound. The next song, “Birthday Morning,” slows down a bit. This only extenuates the beauty. The guitar work and drumming are the perfect foil to the sad longing of the Thompson’s voice. This is a really nice song that manages to get time to stand still for a moment.

And I like an album with a three-four punch even better. “Eagles,” in contrast to the first two tracks, is urgent in its longing. Once again, though, the song just has an infectious melody that inhabits the spaces between the rock music of the very sympathetic band. It’s odd, and maybe it’s just because this is music from Scotland and my Gordon setter Fiona is looking hopefully for another treat, but Andy Thompson’s songs (in a tangential way) remind me of another Scot, John Martyn. Now, this doesn’t sound like “Solid Air.” Nor does it contain Martyn’s acoustic guitar magic, but the lightly touched melodies breathe with a similar sincerity. And it’s equally odd: I read somewhere that John Martyn’s albums would be the desert island choice for Andy Thompson. When I first played Telegraphing, the music of Martyn came to mind. In fact, it’s the song “Superhero” that caught my attention with Thompson’s vocal inflection. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. We’re all just a bit part of one world, and we all just bump into each other every once in a while.

But I also hear early Smiths, and that’s a good thing, too.  Morrissey is from Manchester. It’s a small world.

It’s Sunday night, and anyone who reads these reviews knows I use the time to make my “best or albums list.” This album made #10 on the “favorite records from Scottish bands or bands that had a lead singer who lived in Scotland and once owned a salmon plant on the Isle of Skye.” This Fuzzystar album was preceded by Runrig’s Heartland and Five Hand Reel’s For A’ That respectively. I’m sad to say that Big Country and Simple Minds just didn’t make the cut this week. In second place, as always, is anything by the great and sadly late Jackie Leven and his band Doll by Doll. However, topping the bill is Stormwatch by Jethro Tull.

The second part of the album is equally good. “Suicide Satellite” and “Lone Star State” (with a nice lyric) are jangly rock that sound like Reckoning REM. The next song, “Spotlight,” is a solo Andy Thompson tune with vocals and a strummed electric guitar. It’s an interlude with demo simplicity. An acoustic guitar might have been nice, but that’s just a preference. And the song certainly works within the context of the group’s sound. Then the band returns in a big way with the title track “Telegraphing.” This is catchy urgent anthem stuff like Will Birch’s wonderful band The Records played with their song “Girls That Don’t Exist.” Quite frankly, I love both songs with their ringing guitars and “starry eyed” melodies.  

You know, I have listened to a lot of music. And I have played so many albums by “four square” bands. With that sport allusion, I mean bands with the standard bass, drums, guitar, and vocal line-up. Cambridge’s second finest, The Soft Boys, comes to mind. Clive Gregson’s Any Trouble is another. Does anyone remember the Eddie and the Hot Rods or The Distractions?  Good bands all. The key to rock immortality is simple: just have great tunes. Fuzzystar has those great songs. “Longest Day” is languid with deep expectation (and a really nice acoustic guitar). Once again, I hear John Martyn and his song “Back to Stay” from his London Conversation record. This is the causeway to the final track, which is also the longest song on the album. “High Friends” explodes with energy of a proper finale. Yes, this has every ingredient in the Fuzzystar playbook: They are an indie band with great melodies who manage to play rock music with a pretty good punch. That’s a nice touch.

It is truly amazing. It’s a wonder of canine nature. My Gordon setter Fiona is still here with me and this music. And I have long given up the last treat. But she’s still here. That’s nice. Perhaps she really does like this Fuzzystar music. Yeah, my Fiona does have a good nose for a great tune.

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