Duality in music is something that’s often difficult to pull off subtly – combining disparate styles can be done, sure, but it’s often clunky, and even when executed correctly, obvious. Fuzzystar, the Edinburgh-based alternative rock project of Andy Thomson manages this subtlety by not attempting any grand, genre-defining combination of styles on their debut album, Telegraphing, but by simply infecting the project’s sound with various influences and conveying differing emotional states.
Telegraphing manages the aforementioned duality in its emotion, sounding simultaneously deflated and elated – Fuzzystar convey a sense of euphoria despite an undeniable sense of pathos in both the lyrics and musical arrangements, even on some more bombastic tracks.
That said, Telegraphing is simply an enjoyable rock album full of well-written songs in various styles that stays fairly interesting throughout. It’s emotional beats are secondary to song craft here, but are nonetheless an important aspect of the music.
Angel Transported is notable as an opening track because of its striking main riff – despite the interesting places Telegraphing goes, this is certainly the album’s catchiest riff, and possibly its most memorable moment. From here, Fuzzystar move away from the focused, upbeat nature of the opening track in a more ethereal direction, adding multiple layers of post-punky guitars on songs like Birthday Morning and Suicide Satellite, the latter of which conveys the band’s aforementioned despondence through its almost-mumbled vocals.
This more reserved vocal approach on songs like Suicide Satellite works, and there’s a reason for that – harsher vocal approaches on songs like Eagles and the title track expose a shakiness in Thomson’s singing which is off-putting. And although Eagles gets around this with its strong hook and riffs, the title track’s more obvious classic rock approach, combined with Thomson’s weak vocals makes it stick out like a sore thumb in a bad way, easily making it the weakest track on the album.
Superhero combines reserved vocals and a pointed melancholy with grungier undertones, while Lone Star takes the floatiness established throughout Telegraphing to another level. It abandons some of the cinematic immediacy seen elsewhere on the album in favour of a slow burner that never fully erupts, but this reservedness pays off after the sometimes exhausting laboured sadness of earlier tracks. This carries on throughout The Longest Day, a subtle, beautiful ballad that incorporates post-rock guitar tones into Fuzzystar’s established sound with aplomb.
Closing track High Friends is a fantastic closer, doing everything we’ve come to expect from Fuzzystar throughout this album’s run-time. It’s a track that builds and builds to explosive end in a way that’s completely satisfying, and has an impeccably strong hook that despite being repeated countless times never outstays its welcome. It’s also testament to how track order can affect the quality of an album – ending Telegraphing with this track, as well as placing it after two more downbeat tracks, certainly gives it more resonance.
While Telegraphing has it’s faults – most noticeably some weak vocals – it’s a pretty accomplished debut that combines some interesting ideas and above all establishes its own atmosphere that at times eclipses the arrangements themselves.
Standout Tracks: Angel Transported, The Longest Day, High Friends
For Fans Of: Radiohead, The Smiths, Fugazi
Written by: Alan Cunningham