Having quite particular (read: “odd”) musical tastes, I have to admit to being completely ignorant when it comes to knowing what is actually popular among the young folk these days. Imagine, then, my surprise upon learning that London four-piece Teleman, who have yet to make any real impact on the indie rock blogosphere (is that still a thing?), and who seem to bear as much resemblance to the rest of the rubbish in the charts as I do to Ryan Gosling, have already chalked up a few minor hits on mainstream radio here in the UK. One such track, “Cristina”, opens the band’s debut album Breakfast and whilst the combination of bouncing Pet Sounds bass line and lazily chugging motorik beat is intoxicating enough to hook a music snob like me right away, I must confess to feeling some degree of bemused self-satisfaction that such an awkward, unassuming song might inadvertently end up, for example, as the soundtrack to one of my idiot colleagues’ drive home from work. Of course, we’re not talking “Common People” or “Take Me Out” levels of ubiquity here – those songs were overt anthems after all and “Cristina” is a much subtler affair – but with “geek chic” currently at the height of fashion, and a whole LP’s worth of tunes that are as catchy as they are cerebral, Teleman could just be onto a winner. Produced by godlike guitar genius Bernard Butler, who adds a space-age sheen that somehow vacuum-seals each separate element whilst managing to retain the songs’ inherent warmth, Breakfast is manna from nerd-rock heaven: buzzing keyboards and drum machines nod to Kraftwerk and Stereolab, front-man Thomas Sanders’ wide-eyed man-child vocals and swooping melodies recall English psychedelic staples like Syd Barrett and Robert Wyatt and listeners will doubtless recognize the influence of Neu!, Pavement and Roxy Music among others on tracks such as the gliding “Steam Train Girl” (below), country-tinged “In Your Fur” and elegantly skyscraping “Lady Low”. For all their precision-tooled art-rock moves, though, it’s their knack for buoyant choruses and crowd-pleasing pop hooks (think Hot Chip minus most of their club-friendly tendencies and the ever-present ironic edge) that make Teleman one of 2014’s brightest British hopes. Yes, they may look and sound like the kind of kids that actually enjoyed science class, but even if at times they come across like the social misfits from The Big Bang Theory, it seems these four fellows may have succeeded in synthesizing the formula for making nerdy, brain-box rock popular with the cool kids and the masses. Clever stuff indeed, and an achievement – and a record – they can be proud of.
Breakfast is out May 26 via Moshi Moshi.