Un-Peeled- John peel day- a great festival of retro Peel
Un-Peeled- John Peel day- a great festival of retro Peel
Un-Peeled- John peel day- a great festival of retro Peel
Un-Peeled- John Peel day- a great festival of retro Peel

The Telescopes
Blue Orchids
2 of many bands that played Unpeeled- John Peel day
Oct 27th 2012
live review

There is a strange little scene going on.

Like pop/noise, death to trad rock ghouls all those noisy bands that Peel used to play in the mid eighties have all gradually reformed. Like 6music it’s back to the future retro Peel! And 1985 forever! The year when everything went a bit noisy on the underground before being reinvented as C86 is back in force.

One or more session Peel bands are pouring out of the cupboard and reliving those discordant messy days of the mid eighties and sounding all the better for it. Maybe because the Tories are back in power the music is matching the politics like it did the Thatcher baiting noise underground.

In a lot of ways this is a good thing- the music has remained timeless and age suits many of the aural curmudgeons and many of them have decided to move forwards as well.

A lot of it could be the fault of a one-man alternative music tsunami called Rico who has been promoting all manner of weird and wonderful in Preston, giving the town a better gig list than most hip European cities. In the mid week you can get to see Lydia Lunch or The Nightingales, with bands clattering up the discordant or the weird and wonderful. Getting ambitious Rico has now put on a two-city celebration of the late DJ in Preston and in Manchester for John Peel day.

There are far too many bands to keep up with so we’ve grabbed two from the endless flow of former Peel faves like the Groundhogs, Wolfhounds, Inca Babies, Paris Angels and Yeah Yeah Noh who have all reformed recently. The whole night is a great crammed bill of the sort of names that you remember from cassettes of Peel sessions from the mid eighties-, the former cutting edge are nearly all returned after a two decade break to make a righteous noise.

The Telescopes were once on Creation Records but they started their drone rock adventure in 1988 with a split flexi disc with fellow drone spooks Loop on the Cheree label in 1988.
They had a run of records that switched between drone rock and even a neo baggy flavour when the Madchester scene took over- picking up on that tripped out edge of Manchester, they criss crossed the two before disappearing until 2002 and 2005 when they released their fourth album “The Telescopes No. 4” on their own Antenna Records which saw more exploration of the space between the noise and electronica. Their intermittent career was further sparked when in July 2011, they were invited by Portishead to perform at the ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror at Alexandra Palace in London.

Tonight they seem to have gone off in yet another direction and it could be their best yet. The band wander on stage in Gullivers tight, stinking orifice classic small venue stage. They potter around, look distracted and then slowly morph into the most amazing cacophony.

Front man Stephen Lawrie sits on the floor screaming his soul out as the band kick up a righteous storm of howling feedback drenched noise rock that is like the feral intensity of 1969 Stooges. The barefoot band just hit that one riff like a droning motherfucker spaceship and then the stay there and it is hypnotic.

The songs are up to 15 minutes long and hook round a massive bass riff- this is Metal Box colliding with an enveloping wall of sound with a real danger and the thrill of unpredictability hangs around their sound. It’s an unlikely and powerful return to form for the band surfing on a tidal wave of filthy feedback drenched sound that was hinted at on their April released singles- the first a drone version of Nick Drake’s lost classic ‘Black Eyed Dog’ on the Trensmat label. An album of new songs is rumoured, following sessions at the Brian Jonestown Massacre studios in Berlin and Spectrum co founder Richard Formby’s studio in Leeds. If it’s anything like tonight’s gig it’s going to be quite an adventure.

Blue Orchids were the splinter off shoot band from the Fall formed by founder member of the Fall Martin Bramah. They were arguably the first band made up of ex Fall members and they still hook into that discordant spiky rush of the first Fall album which frontman Martin Bramah was a very big part of.

They took that sound to a logical keyboard drenched conclusion in their early incarnation before disappearing into a haze. There is an element of northern rain drenched pysch to their rush and Martin Bramah still cuts an impressive figure on the stage.

One of the true hero’s of the post punk underground who slipped between the cracks decades ago, he has returned to the fray a couple of years ago and the name change back to Blue Orchids focuses everyone’s attention on what is really going on here.

Gentleman of a certain age are thrilled to have finally caught up with the band again and those songs sound utterly timeless and that swirling keyboard is still the defining feature of those great haunting songs that echo through the decades.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Blue Orchids are playing at 3 events next weekend!!
    June 21st, ATP, Camber Sands. httpss://www.atpfestival.com/events/deerhunter.php
    June 22nd, Scared to Get Happy, 229 The Venue, London. httpss://agmp.ticketabc.com/promoter/agmp/
    June 23rd The Green Door Store, Brighton. httpss://www.wegottickets.com/event/215354


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