Telegraph Melts

Telegraph Melts is the twelfth album and first release of 1986 by musician Jandek. It was released as Corwood Industries #0750, and contains some of the wildest music ever recorded by the musician.


Even with the band material on Interstellar Discussion and Foreign Keys to reference, nothing thus far in the catalog was as raucous asTelegraph Melts. This time we find THREE vocalists (the principal singer songwriter, "Nancy" and an unnamed second male vocalist) scorching through forty-five minutes of ear-melting punk rock. In fact, this album sounds like some of the lowest fi punkers from the sixties (think the Monks or the Godz), referencing that crazed sound more than the type of "noise" punk more prevalent at the time the record was released (and note that just because this was released in 1986 doesn't mean it was recorded then - Corwood referenced this music in a letter to Irwin Chusid from five years prior!). At any rate, it's far removed from the lo-key acoustic blues that made up much of the early works of this artist.

The record starts with "Nancy" singing a trio of songs with minimal lyrics, allowing her to stretch her vocals around some bluesy rock. Things get kicked all over the place with "Ace of Diamonds", in which the Corwood Rep DRENCHES his voice in echo and screams at top volume while the band mercilessly pounds away behind him. The tension here is surprisingly tight, even if the band isn't, at least not in a traditional way.

The second half of the album changes the sound a bit and includes a very "hippy" duet called "Governor Rhodes" that may be an ode to the Kent State shootings (the Governor of Ohio at the time was James A. Rhodes). But most of this is not to be taken so seriously (though "Star Up in the Sky" is another duet with "cosmic" lyrics). Most notorious, of course, is "You Painted Your Teeth", in which the artist, in a manic snarl, begins with, "I got my knife/if you want to breathe, baby.../don’t paint your teeth/I’ve got my gun", followed by, "You painted your teeth/and you think you’re fine/but you gotta die." The phrase "paint your teeth" appears to come from the liner notes of the Bob Dylan album Highway 61 Revisited, though the content of the song has nothing else to do with those notes. The intensity with which this song is sung is a huge contrast to Jandek's often more hushed and occasionally mumbling singing voice.

Stranger still is the next song, where two male vocalists appear to chant a genuine Mother's Day card after swigging nine or ten shots of tequila. This leads the same two guys to take on "The Fly", before Nancy swings back in to save the record on the wild "House up on the Hill", which starts with the two vocalists (who sing together) going to a place "where you can drink your fill", but ends up, quite literally, going to the moon. A place, one imagines, perhaps more prepared for this noise-drenched punk than Earth was at the time.

Track listing

  1. You – 1:38
  2. One the Planes – 2:48
  3. Go to Bed – 2:46
  4. Ace of Diamonds – 4:43
  5. Twenty Four – 4:55
  6. No Slow Ones – 3:00
  7. Telegraph Melts – 4:04
  8. Governor Rhodes – 5:06
  9. Star Up in the Sky – 3:34
  10. You Painted Your Teeth – 3:04
  11. Mother's Day Card – 1:37
  12. The Fly – 3:17
  13. House Up On the Hill – 2:22

External links

Telegraph Melts is also the name of a Washington, DC-based chamber-punk band that recorded on Absolutely Kosher, a San Francisco-based independent label, in the late 1990s. Telegraph Melts, the band, consisted of Bob Massey on guitar and Amy Domingues on cello.

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