The New Pornographers
For what purpose the popular song? Does the popular song have a purpose? Is it just a sequence of auditory gestures, desperate acts, adrift in the bigger broader silence of an unforgiving cultural landscape? In what follows, we will assume that the purpose of the popular song is to unite warring disputants and to repair the manifold puncture wounds of life, so that life is revealed, again, as less accursed than it appears. And let's assume that we go on listening to the popular song, which in the vast majority of its iterations is a failure, because we are chronic in our need for this rehabilitation of our puncture-wounded selves. Take any fine example, take "All You Need Is Love," by the Beatles, or "Walk Away, Renee," by the Left Banke, or "Tears of a Clown," by Smokey Robinson. Try listening to these songs. Almost immediately, your suppurations begin to clot.
Into this tryingly difficult history of the popular song stride The New Pornographers, into a period in which it has to be acknowledged that the medium is mostly dead, is passed, is no longer a uniting force, but, more frequently, a medium of division, one entirely controlled by the Ownership Society and made profitable according to shareholders who don't give a fuck if your puncture wounds are healed over as long as the product ships. The New Pornographers, stunningly, do not seem to understand that the popular song is dead, is passed, and The New Pornographers, despite their complete and nearly monastic understanding of the Secret Knowledge of the popular song, will themselves into being, characterized by a uniform devotion to the great history that precedes them by only a couple of decades, and their coming into being in a somewhat unlikely place, Vancouver, not previously noted for a unvarying profusion of rock genius, is particular not only for uniformity of purpose but because they manage, in this uniformity, to bring a considerable cast of local adepts all as one into the tent. The cast of adepts is now well known, but includes at least two startlingly good songwriters, three spectacularly good singers, one of the very best drummers in all of contemporary music, an in-house filmmaker-and that is merely to scratch the surface on the question of bench strength, the shocking amount of bench strength in a band in which everyone seems to be able to produce quality audio emanations from any instrument and to sing, and in which the studio is an instrument as it is in few bands.
Michael Benjamin Lerner, masquerading under the name Telekinesis!, does not, as the name might suggest, dabble in the psychic world nor imply that he can move anything with the power of his brain. Except maybe metaphorically, if you count how someone might be “moved” by music. But this is an awful metaphor and not something you’re inclined to keep following through the lengths of a bio, especially if you have no idea who this person is. The good news is that you will get to know and grow to love Michael via his pure-and-simple pop songs. At that point I may take creative license to subject you to a verbose illustration of the perceived intricacies of his future magnum opus, but until then, let’s keep it simple.
Telekinesis! is based out of Seattle, WA, and is driven by Michael’s love for Brit-Pop (which I’m sure is part of the reason he decided to live in Liverpool for a year though this is merely a conjecture), pistachio nuts (which he eats in inhumanly amounts), Scandinavian cheese-cutters (because who doesn’t love decorous cheese?), and possibly his reverence for the musicians who came before him in this city on the Puget Sound. I cannot claim to know everything that drives Michael and most assuredly you can’t either. So you’re going to have to take my word for it until his newly finished, full-length debut is mastered, packaged, and released. Then feel free to form your own opinions…
This split 7” with the super-talented Cloud Control is a small taste of what Michael has been up to. In the last 3 months, he has finished a record with Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie, Tegan & Sara, The Decemberists) at the helm, played numerous shows regionally, and managed to document all of this with his uncanny photographic skills. What you are hearing is an exclusive version of “All of a Sudden” – a catchy song about summer, which seems entirely appropriate that it be released as Australia is facing a change of seasons and, paradoxically, Seattle is growing greyer by the minute.
Michael’s work ethic in the studio is characterized by fearless commitment and a willingness to experiment, even if the ideas seem far-fetched. His positivity makes the studio and subsequently his songs more welcoming. Truth be told, he doesn’t appear to have much of a dark side and still he manages to intrigue and surprise an audience in a very accessible way. He can also drum and sing at the same time, which is not only unassailably cool but for most of the population is physically impossible.
I implore you to keep tabs on Telekinesis! not just because all the kids are doing it, but because his particular brand of pop is satisfying in a sing-aloud-with-the-windows-down sort of way. And that could not be much more convenient given that the Australian summer is imminent and you have earned it.