This Is Telex

This Is Telex

Virtually nobody remembers the telex, a predecessor to the fax machine that thrived in the ’60s and ’70s. Fortunately, the same can’t be said of the band that named itself after the communication device. Like their contemporaries Kraftwerk, the Belgian trio, formed in Brussels in 1978, were keen students of technology with an abiding interest in the changes sweeping through Europe; equipped with the latest synthesizers, they reinterpreted timeless pop structures in winkingly futuristic forms. Their 1979 single “Moskow Diskow” was a sort of answer song to Kraftwerk’s own “Trans-Europe Express,” complete with chugging railroad drums and synthesized train whistle; a staple on Italian dance floors and a major influence on Detroit techno, it was every bit as international in scope as its lyrics suggest. Much like The KLF after them, Telex were also keen students of the music industry, and in 1980, they represented Belgium in the Eurovision Song Contest; their French-language entry, “Euro-vision,” is an irrepressibly perky tribute to the affair, half-ironic yet also sincere in its fondness for the event. The anthology This Is Telex, released in 2021, runs the breadth of their career, from the trio’s debut single, “Twist à Saint-Tropez,” to their final album, 2006’s How Do You Dance?—and what comes into focus across that span is how thoroughly they fused unerring pop instincts with a sly sense of humor and a real generosity of spirit. In Telex’s hands, even “La Bamba,” a rock ’n’ roll classic from 1958, sounds like a message from the future—not just any future, either, but a land of boundless optimism.

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