The focal point of Telekinesis’s second album is not auteur Michael Benjamin Lerner’s voice, lyrics, guitar-playing or even songwriting. What makes 12 Desperate Lines a supremely listenable album despite the fact that it is, essentially, an album of indie pop retreads in the vein of Fountains of Wayne is the bass. Within the album’s first thirty seconds, its presence is made obvious when a propulsive if not virtuosic bassline forces Lerner’s voice and guitar strums to the backseat in the album opener, “You Turn Clear in the Sun”. Throughout, the bass of 12 Desperate Lines keeps things interesting and flowing at a brisk pace. Its authority over the mix can range from the supportive (“I Got You”) to the decorative (“Fever Chill”) to the ubiquitous (album highlights “I Cannot Love You” and “Please Ask For Help”). It’s an essential aspect of 12 Desperate Straight Lines that, from time to time, lifts the craft of entire songs above the mire of monotony.
The only other notable aspect of 12 Desperate Lines is Lerner’s lyrical turn in “You Turn Clear in the Sun”, which takes a “turn the other cheek” attitude to a breakup song. With simple and concise diction, Lerner makes his ruminations sound both cute and revelatory. “I could sit and wonder/’Bout where I went wrong/Or I can go out on Friday/And try to have fun”, he muses over light percussion and that rich bass. It ‘s a naively simple mindset to express in a song, but one that I cannot say I’ve heard on any record in recent memory. Lerner spends the song killing that estranged ex with kindness (hoping her next lover treats her right, writing down the fond memories they had together), until the listener is unquestionably on his side when he inquires to that former lover, “Now was it you or was it me?”.
Other than that, 12 Desperate Lines’s bass presence is the best thing it’s got going for it. In that regard, it’s surprisingly unique, but I wouldn’t blame you if you avoided it all but “You Turn Clear In The Sun”.