Telephone’s biggest contribution to rock culture was proving to a stodgy French record industry that a local band could succeed singing teenage protest lyrics in its native tongue. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Telephone’s sound is more Stonesy hard-rock than Pistols punk thrash. They were quite good at it, though, investing the crunchy guitar boogie with cutting punk force, while singer-guitarist Jean-Louis Aubert shot as much Jaggeresque venom as possible into the soft curves of a romance language.
The band’s first album, which was produced by Mike Thorne, and Crache Ton Venin, produced by Martin Rushent in his pre-Human League days, are recommended for their spunk and energetic garage sound. The Telephone! EP, produced by Bob Ezrin, has six songs — delivered mostly in lightly accented English — that show development into subtler, more modern territory, e.g., “The Cat,” a slinky number sung by female bassist Corinne Marienneau (ex-Shakin’ Street) and accented by bawdy trombone. The original French version of that song, “Le Chat,” is on Dure Limite, which was the band’s breakthrough album in French, containing the single “Cendrillon,” sung by guitarist Louis Bertignac.
Glyn Johns produced Un Autre Monde, on which Telephone shifts sideways and back. Marienneau gets more chances to sing (in French) formless numbers that have neither personality nor energy, while Aubert’s turns in the spotlight again recall the Glimmer Twins. A boring mess.
Rappels is a compilation which includes the group’s final 45, “Le Jour S’est Leve.” After that, Aubert went solo, followed by Bertignac. Sur la Route consists of all nine tracks from Telephone, seven-tenths of Crache Ton Venin and most of Au Coeur de la Nuit. Although released a tad late for the band’s 20th anniversary, 20ème Anniversaire is a six-CD box (!). Paris ’81 is a concert document.