Telex started in 1978 with the goal of making completely electronic music. It seemed like a common goal among budding new romantic artists in the late ’70s. Maybe the only reason we think of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan or Ultravox when remembering early electronic pioneers is because the equally innovative Telex never had the breakthrough song in America or Europe for that matter.
Like Kraftwerk, the Belgian band often avoided public appearances and has maintained a low profile, despite having a strong following in Europe and semi cult status in America. Over the course of their history they have released nearly as many compilations and remixes than original albums.
I discovered Telex completely by accident as most musical discoveries were in the age before the internet. As a 99 cent proposition during a Saturday record store excursion. I loved those little record hunting adventures, it was a low-cost way to discover something new, although Nerovision was nearly 10 years old when I stumbled upon it. The cover art with its early new ’80s wave meets ’60s atomic age graphics got my attention, so I took the bait.
Neurovision turned out to be a good gamble. As the Telex’s second album released in 1980, it was an oddity. While it may not have been the first all-electronic band release, it had to be one of the few when it was recorded.
At hardly 35 minutes, Nerovision is a short but sweet collections of new wave songs in the mold of Kraftwerk and occasionally Devo when the pace got fast. Later reissues would add nearly double the tracks, making the vintage techno sound more like the ’80s than I remembered it.
The Devo like album opener ‘We Are All Getting Old’ has a cartoonish playful energy thanks to it’s artificially quick tempo. Neurovision sounds in many ways like a product of its time, although for 1980 it had to come across as advance when you consider that the most popular electronic music at the time was being made by Gary Numan and he was still using a mix of old and new technology.
Unlike Numan, Telex would forego new romanticism and its dark theatrics and instead focus on dance music – be it Euro Disco or electro pop. Kraftwerk’s music by nature was dance oriented, but their cold monotone vocals and simple songs recalled some aspects of early new romanticism.
Both Telex and Kraftwerk may have had simple song structures and themes, but that’s where their musical similarities ended. ‘Tour de France’, perhaps the band’s most Kraftwerk-like song was reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s travel theme songs of the 1970s. Marc Moulin the lead vocalist for the band sounded a little less robotic and had more variation due to the focus on high tempo dance songs. Also, because the band’s music had disco and dance influences – it was considerably brighter and happier sounding than most of the new wave of the opening years of decade.
Telex had almost no impact in America, despite working with The Sparks on a future project. Fortunately for fans of the band, they came back together a few years ago with a new album. Since then they have continued their tendency to release remixed dance compilations. Thanks to the internet, it’s become much easier to discover their music, but nothing beats the thrill of a cheap find from a brick and mortar record store.