Walking onto the stage, dressed almost entirely in black, the four-piece launched into the psych foot-stomper ‘Telegramme’ from their recently released debut album ‘Operator’. ‘Telegramme’ was by far the slowest song they played on the night, but it did a fantastic job of cleansing the audience’s palate after the hollow indie rock of support Warm Brains and the faux-psychedelia of Blues Fuzz. After ‘Telegramme’ they went straight for the jugular with the blistering proto-punk of ‘Rule Number One’ without so much as a second-long break.
It’s difficult to express in mere words just how good Telegram were, and that’s not an understatement. They are truly a force to be reckoned with when playing live. The album sounds fantastic but to truly get a sense of Telegram’s real sound you have to go see them. They make The Ramones sound like they’re on Valium. This is partly achieved through drummer Jordan Cook, who is not only hideously good at playing the drums but hits them with unbridled ferocity. Telegram as a unit are tighter than Scrooge’s fist, right down to singer Matt Saunders’ ‘ah’ between one of the pregnant pauses in ‘Under The Night Time’. Saunders’s voice is one of the most understated aspects of Telegram. His bullish voice holds every song in place, it’s completely original and the little Welsh nuances are one of the many aspects that make Telegram great. Imagine ‘Follow’ and ‘Taffy Come Home’ without the inflected ‘r’s - the impact would not be as great.
The world became aware of Telegram when they sent a grainy iPhone recording of their song ‘Follow’ to Marc Riley on 6 Music. ‘Follow’ was definitely the stand out track of the night. Although every other track sounded fresh and vital, no other song had as much of an impact on the audience. The iconic chugging guitar riff at the start had excited crowd members looking round with wide excited eyes and pinching their friends. With music like Telegram’s, fast, unrelenting and heavy, one might imagine the crowd to have been slightly more active, but I put this down to the complete awe of the crowd - the audience was hushed, only pausing to break into rapturous applause and whistles at the end of every song. It’s difficult to put a label on Telegram because the musical palette on show here is so varied. There’re influences of punk, proto-punk, rock & roll, psych and a healthy dollop of glam. They sound like a Tiger for the modern world. Telegram have a knack of writing completely infectious songs, and seemingly every track they played at Headrow House was completely hook-laden, from the triumphant ‘Taffy Come Home’ to the mighty ‘Aeons’.
Telegram will surely go down as one of the best gigs Leeds has had this year, and definitely one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. To truly experience the force of nature that is Telegram, you just have to see them live - they are essential viewing and listening.