Telegraph Canyon

Telegraph Canyon @ Rhythm Room

A quick question: Is it possible for a rock 'n' roll song to feature bells — those chiming, ringing things — without plunging to the depths of saccharine "twee-ness"? We're not talking booming "For Whom the Bell Tolls"-by-Metallica bells. We're talking street-performer, Christmas-caroling bells. Is it possible to employ the use of that kind of bell and not sound positively wussified? A strong case for a "yes" vote would be "Shake Your Fist" by Fort Worth, Texas-based band Telegraph Canyon. Yes, it's got bells, but it's also got balls. Featured on the band's sophomore LP, The Tide and the Current, recorded with Centro-Matic's Will Johnson (who's got a string of gravely stated alt-country releases to his own name) in 2009, the song features bells (and that other instrument-turned-Portlandia-joke, the banjo) but doesn't resign itself to cutesy sentimentality. "Testify nothing but the truth," vocalist and songwriter Chris Johnson howls over a sturdy, surging chorus that recalls Band of Horses' primal early work and the arena-encompassing grandeur of Arcade Fire. So, bells? Sure — as long as you got guts (and a well-worn copy of Born to Run to consult as reference). — Jason P. Woodbury


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