If you’re anything like we were two weeks ago, you’ve never heard of Telethon. Evidently, the Milwaukee pop-punk quintet has managed two albums in its relatively brief existence and has stayed squarely under the radar, despite playing a fair amount of local shows in its abbreviated run. While overlooking this little-known band may have been a forgivable—if not justifiable—offense to this point, Telethon’s latest, the ambitious 30-track, 90-minute concept album, The Grand Spontanean: A Tale Told In Five Acts, demands attention.
The so-called “rock opera,” and Telethon’s third release in as many years, chronicles a screen-sick, electronically-addled protagonist’s desperate search for any semblance of comfort and normalcy in a rapidly-changing and ever-worsening world. His frantic journey takes him to an unlicensed therapist, finds him reaching strange new levels of paranoia, and eventually stumbling upon “The Page At The End Of The Internet”—where a foreboding message warns of the world’s end in a matter of days. It turns out he wasn’t the only one who found the page, thus ushering in a cavalcade of chaos, misunderstanding, and reluctant acceptance of impending doom.
The disgusting imagery and graphic details are cut with a few dozen songs that range from poppy and rousing anthems rife with squealing Thin Lizzy-channeling guitars to folk numbers to jangle-y piano ballads and straight-forward pop-punk. Fortunately, the five-piece’s elaborate concept is carried to fruition with the able accompaniment from a cast of featured players like Less Than Jake singer Roger Lima, The Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay, Laura Stevenson, and Fake Problems’ Chris Farren. The vast sonic patchwork of apocalyptic and socially-pointed songs are woven together with vignettes, including news reports, an invented band-within-the-band called “The New Improbable Sensations” playing a three-song set powered by a generator in a bunker, and an omniscient narrator inviting listeners to choose their own adventure based on the way they are feeling as the album nears its conclusion.
By the end of the weird and wild 90-minute ride to the edge of existence, you’ll have experienced something you never would’ve thought Telethon was capable of…and not just because you didn’t know who Telethon was before all this. With an inventive idea and admirable execution, The Grand Spontanean effectively transforms this unknown pop-punk project from a band you’ve never heard of into one you have to hear.
Telethon will release The Grand Spontanean: A Tale Told In Five Acts on Friday, September 29. They’ll play a show at Sabbatic that night and another at Frank’s Power Plant on October 5. You can pre-order the double-disc now on Telethon’s Bandcamp page and/or stream it in its entirety below.