Telto – Bugged

Telto
Bugged

I’m of two minds about Telto’s new album, but then I believe the band is as well. I start off listening to this band and wincing at some rather unoriginal rock, and by the end, I’m floored by the band’s talent. It’s not that it grows on me, but rather it’s that the band changes styles. I don’t quite understand how a band can be so good playing one style of music and so bad playing another, but it happens here.

So what does Telto sound like? Well, something between bland, bar-style rock-n-roll and moody goth-rock. That’s a big difference, you’re probably thinking, and you’re right. That’s what confuses me so much about this band. They start off heavily on the mediocre rock style, very guitar-driven and putting the drawly female vocals from frontwoman Leslie Dean high at the front, and by the end they’re playing long and moody, dark rockers that are completely different. The female vocals remind me a bit of Sioxsie or maybe even hints of Kristen Hersch, and they work perfectly in the darker, more goth-style format. But they don’t work near as well in the plain ol’ rock format.

See, the album starts so bland and unoriginal, I have trouble continuing. “Janus” has this weird, guitar-funk thing going that is so out of place on this album it surprises me every time. And the same style of guitar-driven, slightly funky sound is continued on “8 Ball in Your Fruit Bowl.” They’re trying way too hard to groove.

But before I hit stop and shake my head in boredom, “Over the Sink” comes on, slower, with a darkly melodic guitar line and Dean’s vocals thickly textured. Wow…this has got to be a different band. “Buttonholes” is even softer, very sparse and entirely driven by Dean’s voice, which mellows nicely here. There’s a conflict between the bouncy, slightly groovy guitar on “Someone Hollow Swallowed Me” and the darker texture to Dean’s vocals, but things get back on track with “White Doors Slam,” which is the only track that I think effectively combines a more rocking, guitar-focused sound and Dean’s darker, more gothic undertones. Like its name, “Anesthesia” is quiet and thick, with Dean’s vocals layered and chilling. This track is quite lovely, with stellar bass and perfect guitar. “Dog Eyes” is another darkly melodic track, with nice acoustic guitar. And the 8-minute closer, “Touch,” is easily the best track here, with crisp, chilling guitar, good drumming, and Dean’s vocals lofting to even new heights, especially by the end, as the music builds into a frenzied crescendo, and Dean screams as if her life is ending. Holy cow I love this song! It is so remove from the first track on the album, again I think it must be a different band.

It amazes me that the band calls themselves an indie rock band that combines grooves and guitar riffs. Why not mention the gothic leanings. It works for them. Their rock songs are short and tepid, while their more goth-rock songs are long and inspired. And listen to these lyrics from “Touch”: “…sore and splendid palms of my hands… / a still descendant. I’m spread out like land… / I live all day when I can. / When you’ve inspected my neck to my shins / I’m sure you’ll stick me with all those straight pins / but look what leaks from your skin.”

My message to Telto: embrace what you do well. Don’t try to play funky, groovy bar-rock, because a million other bands do it just as poorly. But your moody, darkly melodic and hauntingly lovely tracks are truly inspired and quite impressive. That’s the reason why I listen to this album time and again, just skipping over those few tracks that show a band going the wrong way.