October is set to bring us a Dó a second album from Telefís, the groundbreaking collaboration between two Irish iconoclasts, revered singer-songwriter, or perhaps, in undoubtedly his own formulation, pseudo-vocalist and cultural janitor, Cathal Coughlan and world-renowned producer Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee. Following the release of a hAon (the number one) in March 2022, Cathal and Jacknife continued to work on music and completed the record at the end of Spring shortly before Cathal’s passing on May 18th.
Jacknife Lee notes…”Cathal’s dying was always a part of these songs. Not literally, but his reflections and explorations of where he came from were examined from this perspective. After his death we could have waited to release the album, and we accepted that we might have to, but now we just want to celebrate Cathal. I want people to know that he was active and working up to the last few days of his life. We were working on more Telefís – writing and planning. There are many layers to Cathal Coughlan. The mischief, the tenderness, and the profound melancholy. It’s all here, and it’s some of his best work. Writing these songs during his illness knowing what lay ahead of him shows his commitment to words and ideas. It’s his life.”
Telefís is the Irish word for Television and pronounced Tele-feesh. It’s also a nod to the post-punk heroes of the late 70s that dwell in Jacknife and Cathal’s collective consciousness. Their first transmission arrived last Autumn with the twisted electro-funk of ‘We Need’ a cheeky and satirical look back to the early days of TV in Ireland and the memory fragments of their youth. But as with all of Cathal’s lyrics, there are contemporary lines drawn to today’s power structures and hierarchies. Flights of the imagination ensuring that nothing is ever quite what it may appear.
Their debut album a hAon playfully dissected the early days of Irish society in the TV era through a prism of electronic dance music, drawing on what they saw as a ‘corrosive nostalgia’. It also paid homage to their musical heroes of the punk and post-punk era. Kraftwerk fighting with The Human League for a parking spot on Capel Street.
But amongst the muscular beats and distressed synth stabs there were also strange ballads, haunting melodies and somber reflections. a Dó continues to broaden these sonic horizons and opens up the band’s output to outside collaborators. There are guest appearances from Cathal’s longtime friend and Microdisney co-founder and High Llamas main man Sean O’Hagan on the first single ‘Space Is Us’, Echo & The Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant guests on two tracks, legendary Mancunians A Certain Ratio on another. The inimitable Jah Wobble also contributes bass smarts following his dub odyssey with the band on their single ‘Falun Gong Dancer’ earlier this year.
Last thoughts from Cathal: “The palette is expanded here, as we once again move haphazardly across time, the tracks sometimes lusher than a hAon, sometimes pared way back. Musical collaborators include a returning Jah Wobble, the whole crew of A Certain Ratio, Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen and the Microdisney/High Llamas magus Sean O’Hagan. Tales are spun & mis-spun, spanning the initial, tentative arrival of colour TV transmissions on Irish public broadcaster RTÉ in the early 1970’s, reaching depictions of the high technology of 1981, all the way to the private agonies of the photo model guy who tries to sell you cloud storage services for 2023. Yes, you excitable TikTokers and bemusable Dad Rockers, Telefís is here to pick your minds – clean – once again!”