Long-time fans of self-confessed nearly men Tellison will testify that the London four-piece are usually ones to take their time with things. They’ve averaged an album every four years since 2007’s ‘Contact! Contact!’ after suffering numerous setbacks such as real life getting in the way. So, when they arrive on the Sound Control stage 15 minutes earlier than the mooted 9pm start time it comes as an unexpectedly nice surprise and also indicates that they mean business. There’s a whole lot of quality in their discography to get through now, especially since the addition of ‘Hope Fading Nightly’ to the catalogue.
Tellison aren’t the only quality act on show here; following local indie newcomers The Navettes are the tour’s main support act, the increasingly popular Muncie Girls. Their short but impressively tight set draws mostly from this year’s brilliant debut album ‘From Caplan to Belsize’ and has the vast majority of the crowd engaged by the time they finish on recent single ‘Gas Mark 4’. Their brand of intelligent pop-punk provides the evening with a boost of energy before the main attraction.
It is worth noting that this show is taking place downstairs at Sound Control; not quite at the level of warranting a booking in the higher capacity upstairs venue, Tellison are instead occupying the smaller room but it does them no harm whatsoever, it simply adds to the intimacy of the set and compliments a band that epitomises down-to-earth and approachability.
Once ‘someone’ in the crowd allows Stephen Davidson, the band’s Commander-in-Chief, to actually get past him and join his bandmates on-stage, the show is underway quite sharply. It’s been six months since the release of ‘Hope Fading Nightly’ and this allows the band a certain degree of confidence in playing the newer stuff tonight. First out of the gates is a slick blast of ‘Helix and Ferman’ from that aforementioned LP and it gets the crowd involved immediately with the majority participating in the middle eight refrains of ‘Drink red wine, say you’re fine’ along with guitarist Pete Phillips and bassist Andrew Tickell before they burst into ‘Edith Wharton’.
As with the majority of Tellison’s recorded output, Davidson takes the vocal lead predominantly but Phillips has his own moments throughout the set, the first of which is ‘Boy’, the second single from ‘Hope Fading Nightly’. Phillips’ numbers have a habit of being unassuming pop gems which is perfectly befitting of the guitarist. Like the band as a whole, he isn’t flashy – there’s no complicated pedal board for him, just a couple switches – it’s all part of the charm of a band that finally seem on route to getting a little more credit for their work. That being said, they are slicker than they let on as proved by the seamless sampled drums featured on ‘New York New York New York’, the only song to be aired from their debut.
The middle of the set sees 2011’s ‘The Wages of Fear’ getting some attention with a blitz of faster, rockier moments like ‘Horses’ and the exceptional ‘Say Silence’ preceding what should have been a set highlight in the quirky, lovelorn ‘Freud Links the Teeth and the Heart’. Now, there was nothing wrong on Tellison’s part; the entirety of the blame falls at the feet of some of the audience ignoring the unwritten live music etiquette of being quiet during softer numbers. Regardless, a singalong still occurs before the band themselves raise the noise levels with ‘Wrecker’.
The biggest compliment to be bestowed on Tellison tonight is that the 16 song set flies by and if not for the venue’s strict curfew there would be plenty of interest in a few more. To the probable envy of the rest of tour’s stops though, this Manchester set is 3 songs longer than elsewhere which provides reason to be more than grateful with our lot. The well-thought-out setlist serves to perfectly encapsulate what the band are about. No more so is this true than the final string of songs.
The self-deprecating honesty of ‘Letter to the Team’, the jagged drive of ‘Tact Is Dead’ and the catchy pop-rock of ‘Collarbone’ set us up for the final two and showcase the range of styles that they flit between on their records before the set concludes in a quintessential Tellison fashion. A song about feeling unsatisfied and lonely in ‘Tsundoku’ is affecting, thoughtful and relatable as it resonates around the room before they kick away the doom and gloom with the (slight) self-affirmation of ‘Get on’. It’s what Tellison do best; never overwrought or cloaked in metaphor, their songs reflect the band themselves in being genuine and relatable, a quality highlighted by Davidson heading straight to their merch table from the stage. There’s no deluded rock star egos on show here, maybe tact isn’t dead after all.
This Tellison article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor.