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Calling Telethon ambitious is like saying the sky is blue. Duh.
We are talking about the same Telethon who essentially launched their career with a 90-minute, 30-song punk rock opera (2016’s The Grand Spontanean), and later took on the task of crafting eight unique identities and stories for their follow-up conceptual EP (2018’s Modern Abrasive). The very fact that this Milwaukee-based band is still reinventing their own wheel is surprising, but Hard Pop is a sign that Telethon has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.
For the first time ever, frontperson Kevin Tully has spun the narrative spotlight onto himself; gone are the days where he could peer out from behind the shadows of the fictional characters he sang about. Instead, all over Hard Pop, Tully is finally speaking his own truth through 10 earnest and deceptively catchy power-pop gems.
Much like their previous releases, Hard Pop pays homage to Telethon’s myriad of influences, from Born To Run to Fall Out Boy, indiscriminately taking cues from several different genres, regardless of whether they’re deemed “cool” or not. It gives the album a wicked sense of humor to go along with its heartland moments of confession.
Take the album’s first single, “How Long Do I Let It Go For?,” for example.
A piano-rock ode to cyclical anxiety, the song blasts through erratic percussion, spoken word parts about apartment shopping, acrobatic guitars, and the ever-so-perfectly-timed final chorus key change. It’s a contemplative song masquerading as nothing but a radio rock hit, delivered with a smirk rather than a sunken gaze.
Hard Pop is just ten tracks, all of them boasting surefire singalongs. Sure, there are plenty of surprises, like the two-part cinematics of “House of the Future” or the ska breakdown on “Manila,” but the most astounding thing of all is how united Hard Pop is. After all, it’s the first document of a genre Telethon is coining themselves, promising songs with chewy centers but a crunchy outer layer filled with the fuzz of doubt, disappointment, and muses lost to darker times.
It’s surprising all the places Hard Pop will take you if you just go along with it for the ride.
excerpts taken from a bio written by James Cassar