When Michael Lerner recorded the self-titled Telekinesis debut, it was full of travel imagery, of wishes to be with someone he was separated from and the listlessness of constantly wanting to be elsewhere. The follow-up, 12 Desperate Straight Lines, is wall-to-wall heartache, rumination on said heartache and, for good measure, a Paul Simon reference. No one ever said love was easy, but at least the dissolution sounds good on wax.
12 Desperate Straight Lines is everything a classic sophomore record usually is in power-pop. It builds on the original’s sound, here returning to producer Chris Walla for a second go-round, and develops the musical themes further. It does just that, elevating the infectious sing-along jaunts of the first album. But the lyrical themes are much darker this time around, an aspect that holds true from the opening line (“we fell in love in the summer / by the springtime we were done”) to the last. The opening run of three songs are the album’s best – “You Turn Clear in the Sun” uses a toy piano to introduce the melody of a surging opener that leads perfectly into the “Just Like Heaven”-aping “Please Ask for Help” and the appropriately Simon-alluding “50 Ways.”
An album that sounds like it’s going to spend its time purposefully referencing specific touchstones, however, eventually settles into a consistent groove of propulsive sub-three minute spurts of self-reflective doubt and eventual acceptance; closer “Gotta Get It Right Now” takes a Beatles-sounding stomp and winds the record into a less bitter sounding finish. The lone exception is the penultimate song, “Patterns,” a reverb-laden piano track that seems to question whether either the narrator or his recently beloved can work without one another. It’s the album’s only truly slow and low-key track and though I can’t argue with its placement on the album, it seems almost out of place on the record at all. It’s a track that makes the record seem unsure whether it wants to be a great collection of singles or a great thematic album.
12 Desperate Straight Lines is stronger than its predecessor and could, in the right hands, make one hell of a break-up record. It’s saying something that even at its darkest, Lerner’s writing does what the best pop does: balances darker, more uncertain lyrics with sweet, infectious hooks. The Mountain Goats’ Get Lonely it ain’t, but you have to come out of the dark sometime, and it’s great to see that sunshine when you do. words/ j neas
MP3: Telekinesis :: Car Crash