4

The Telefones

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The Telefones exist, just barely, as an afterthought, a name to be conjured only when old-timers talk about wasting their youth pogoing the night away at the corner of Maple and Hondo. It's almost impossible to place the band -- featuring brothers Jerry, Steve, and Chris Dirkx, and their rotating fourth -- in the proper context, since there exists little trace of them: the rare vinyl that turns up in Collectors Records, the odd sod that makes it onto a way-back local-punk comp. Had they formed in another city -- say, San Francisco or Seattle -- then they'd be better remembered; but as it turned out, The Telefones made their name here, which means they might as well have written it in disappearing ink. Never mind that The Telefones produced a record that still sounds so very tomorrow 19 years after its initial release.

The original vinyl of Vibration Change sells for no less than $25, and that's a copy with every scratch burned deep into the grooves. So think of Steve Dirkx's efforts to reissue The Telefones' 1980 how-do Vibration Change on CD -- with nine never-before-issued tracks, no less, nearly doubling the original's size and value -- as charity work; that, or the doings of a man not yet ready to let his band pass forever into extinction. Or maybe it's his way of honoring old bandmate Will Clay, whose death earlier this year cut short the life of someone trying to get his act together. Look at it anyway you want, but listen closely regardless: Vibration Change, with or without its bonus add-ons, never for a second sounds like something dug up from a time capsule. Either nothing's changed since forever ago, or The Telefones were simply that good.

Listen only to the opener, "Sign of the Times," Jerry Dirkx's rockabilly rumble twist-and-shouting with Clay's honking horn; or "Voices (Come and Get It)," which brilliantly combines "American Woman" with "Tusk"; or the thrilling, recorded-at-Gertie's add-on "She's in Love with the Rolling Stones," which begins at the finish line. Neither punk nor new-wave, The Telefones were something entirely bigger and better: bash-and-pop everlasting, short and sharp melodies bursting at the seams with that something extra that turns amateurs into pros. Maybe now they'd call it art-rock: sax outbursts sidled up next to angular shards of broken guitar borrowed from kissing cousins Gang of Four, or three-chord distortion augmented by turned-up-fuzzed-out synths. Some of this shit simmers, and most explodes, especially the five tracks recorded at the Hot Klub in 1981, with future MC 900 Ft Jesus Mark Griffin trying to keep up on horns and keys; give me yesterday's breathless echoes instead of today's ripoff noise, especially if the quality's this damned good. To order Vibration Change, send $10, check or money order, to Steve Dirkx, 737 Dumont Drive, Richardson, 75080.

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