Telekinesis, the fuzzy pop project from Michael Benjamin Lerner, crafts simple, exuberant, heartwarming rock and roll. Lerner is well aware of the power of the power chord, the emotive effects of loud-quiet-loud, and the eerie potency that his upper register vocals have, quavering above the 12 addictive nuggets on his new album.
12 Desperate Straight Lines gets going with unwavering aplomb, as Lerner sings about a summer-spring romance over strummed acoustic guitar. Then the bass kicks in, the overdrive-coated instrument at the core of the album. He says he was inspired by Mark Robinson’s Flin Flon project for Teenbeat, and wrote the new record’s songs mostly on bass. It’s a good idea, especially when combined with the spindly guitar lines and flange-effected drums of a song like “Please Ask For Help.” “50 Ways” slows things down a bit, bringing The Clean to mind on its sparse verses before a Weezer-style anthemic chorus punches in. Such effects may be due in part to Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla’s hand on the production tiller here, resulting in a crystal clear and extremely warm sound that serves Lerner’s songwriting well.
This is straight-up power pop projected through a vulnerably personal filter of life and love, but the songs never feel contrived. Each has its own distinctive personality, and at less than three minutes apiece, there are no frills. Yes, there are recognizable elements here, but that’s part of the pleasure. Lerner’s current touring lineup consists of sometime Robert Pollard bandmate Jason Narducy on bass and Jaguar Love and ex-Blood Brothers member Cody Votolato on guitar. So Lerner’s playing drums and singing on tour, and making better music than Phil Collins can even dream of (at least as of late). 12 Desperate Straight Lines is the proof.