As John Lennon once wrote, life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans. For Tellison, life always seems to be getting in the way.
Upon the completion of the touring cycle for 2011's 'The Wages of Fear', the quartet once again found themselves without a label and what looked like an increasingly bleak future. It's easy to see why they eventually settled on 'Hope Fading Nightly' as the title of their third album - this is a sad record for sad people who need something to cling to. It contains sparks of hope; it's an album about having the courage to carry on when the odds are stacked against you. It almost didn't see the light of day, so it's safe to say Tellison are speaking from experience.
Rescued from oblivion by Alcopop! Records earlier in the year, they've joined the likes of Johnny Foreigner, The Spills, Anamanaguchi and Brawlers, and after singles 'Tact Is Dead' (on which frontman Stephen Davidson laments being broke and unemployed) and 'Boy' (on which he looks back on his childhood and is brave enough to admit he doesn't know shit as an adult) heralded the arrival of their third full-length, the record is finally here after four years of delays. Which sounds similar to how 'The Wages of Fear' came about, funnily enough. Tellison, it seems, have all of the indie-rock smarts and none of the luck.
'Hope Fading Nightly' is a desperate, despondent and heart wrenching listen from start to finish, its acoustic opener 'Letter to the Team (after another imperfect season)' finding Davidson apologising to members of Tellison past and present for the failures and setbacks that have paved their path since their formation a decade ago before signing off with a declaration of his 'resignation' from the band. It's self-deprecating in a manner that few bands of this ilk could pull off. 'Rookie of the Year' finds them in similarly rueful form, a rousing, Friday Night Lights-referencing call to action that is, for all its cautious optimism, steeped in regret and mindful of missed chances.
The record constantly questions itself, but one thing has been proven beyond doubt: Tellison are lifers. 'Detective' speaks of being truly dedicated to your work to the detriment of everything else, but as self-referential as that sounds, it's this dedication that has kept them together through a decade of uncertainty and setbacks. They have come roaring back every time, and sound stronger than ever. "They told me, if I worked real hard, I'd be happy," Davidson reflects on closing track 'Tsundoku'.
Happiness is fleeting; tough to achieve and even harder to hold on to. Moments of happiness on 'Hope Fading Nightly' are few and far between, but Tellison can take pride in the fact that they are among the most resilient and hardest-working bands in Britain. They're used to being also-rans, but this album is the work of a band who are ready to reap long-overdue rewards.
Words: Gareth O'Malley
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