The retro post-punk infatuation has thankfully brought so many re-releases to everyone's attention that 4,000,000 Telephones faultless debut received a proper CD release 22 years after it came out. Infinitely more enjoyable than half the mid-80's post-punk rock noise flooding college airwaves (or at least more aggressively and alive), its songs such as "Stop", "Big House" and "Do That" bolster cold-war paranoia to its zenith while hammering out subtle pop hooks in the most unlikely of places. There are releases that offer strong glimmers of hope for today's cultural wasteland; not so much in that this exists, but that someone today found this genuinely exciting and relevant, three elements critical to lasting art. Please check this out.
The Big Takeover, May 2007
We blame Thatcher. Only her 'screw everyone' mid-80's Tory government – and, probably, being as familiar with girls as Paris Hilton is with bleaching her own roots* – could inspire a band to birth an album this tense-sounding.
Originally released in 1985, in the name of being experimental, 4,000,000 Telephones is a wrecking ball of Young Knives yelps, Mark E Smith snarls, angsty guitars and pounding electronic burps and beeps. And it's a masterful slab of humour. But don't take my word for it. Run out and acquire a Young Ones DVD. Observe the enraged demeanour, barking urgency and burning earnestness of dungaree-sporting graduate/activist/poet Rik. Quickly realise he and all of the 'Phones vocalists (there are four of them) were most likely separated at birth.
This album reeks of 'performing arts undergraduate'.You can imagine it being performed in a Maoist arts centre as slide show images of hard-core porn, war photography, Picasso's Guernica and shots of raw meatflicker on a screen behind the band. Just to add to the earnestness, there'll be a revolutionary mime artist or Marxist-Leninist sign language practitioner stage left.
It's equally possible the 'Phones, however, just wanted to get everyone dancing like Cro-Magnon disco punks, in which case they got it spot-on.
4,000,000 Telephones' harsh edges are blunted by 'Safe', a throbbing soundscape, and 'Horses', which boasts a country and western twang, and some tracks are prettied-up with skeins of flute and patches of jazz impro, but it's hard work. Well, hard work unless you consider Captain Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica' easy listening. Chances are it'll leave you with a clenched jaw, your dad yelling, "Why can't they go out and get a proper job?" and your house cleared of mice and unwelcome guests. But it'll still end up in your record collection when some clever-trousers R and B genius comes along, unstitches it, reconstructs the component parts into something you can pull on the dancefloor to and transforms the greying band members into overnight millionaires. Ours is a double Bacardi and Coke if you're asking, 'Phones.
*Yes, yes Paris, we know you're a natural blonde.
Penny Black online magazine, January 2007
1985…eine Band namens 4.000.000 Telephones veröffentlichen ihr selbst betiteltes Debütalbum auf ihrem eigenen kleinen Label. Klar, dass die CD schnell vergriffen ist. Ebenso klar, dass die Band niemals eine zweite Pressung davon machen lässt. Dieser Bastard aus britischen Elektropop-Elementen und Avantgarde ist ebenso grandios wie unberechenbar. Der Avantgardeanspruch dieser Band, gemischt mit den extrem gewöhnungsbedürftigen Vocals lassen den Hörer zuerst gespannt auf die nächsten Songs warten, dann aber entweder genervt die CD aus dem CD-Player nehmen oder begeistert an den Lautstärkereglern drehen. 4.000.000 Telephones sind zeitgleich unhörbar und unwiderstehlich. Allerdings muss jeder für sich entscheiden, welches Gefühl letzten Endes überwiegt. Und so sei auf die unten genannte Website verwiesen. Viel Spaß und Durchhaltevermögen.
Punkte: 7 von 10
Crazewire, January 2007
Ahoy-hoy at last!
Welcome back to the short, sharp and spiky ringing sound of Lincoln's 4,000,000 Telephones. Over in the same sort of time taken to watch your average nightly soap opera, this is a debut that demands attention today.
A six-piece that could have, should have, and nearly did back in the mid-80s, until now, the Telephones' self-titled album has been out of circulation for nigh on 20 years. A strange missing link between the B-52's, Devo and PiL, they made their music out of up tempo post-punk funk, peppered with abstract vocals.
It's not hard to hear why they didn't break through back then, and why many won't choose to listen now. We're right and they're wrong, however. In style and substance, this is not far removed from what many funk-tinged new wavers choose to play today. The Futureheads would surely give any new record deal to write songs the quality of Stop. Distant relatives to Art Brut, it's never too late to connect with these 4,000,000 Telephones.
(Four stars out of five)
Record Collector, February 2007
After their recent reunion gig 4,000,000 Telephones said it felt like they'd never been away.
Listening to their debut album for quite possibly the first time since the decade that spawned it has a similarly telescoping effect.
These tracks, eccentric and uncompromising, have lost none of their power to startle or subvert, whether through Carl Plover's idiosyncratic lyrics or the then cutting-edge tape manipulations of Jack Rabelais including, in Do That, what sounds like Ronald Reagan and snippets from an adult phone line (band member Richard Main: "They weren't really around back then and you had to ring Russia. We couldn't believe he had done it. We thought the police would come round.")
Combining the raw appeal of early Talking Heads or Bill Nelson, the best tracks include Cereal Commercial and the sonic maelstrom of Safe, with a special mention for Rabelais' instrumental finale, We're Not Coming Out.
Unavailable for nearly two decades, releasing the Telephones' debut on CD feels like opening a time capsule, its contents still as fresh, sharp and hard to contain as the day they went in. Well worth seeking out.
Lincoln Chronicle, 30 November 2006