The Televangelist and the Architect play a very morose brand of indie rock that moves into something much more in line with Bright Eyes during their “Nationalism”. The production value of this album is high, without much in the way of issues that present themselves immediately to anyone that is listening in, whether fan or not. The Televangelist and the Architect is an act that is able to ratchet up or down their intensity level seemingly at the drop of a hat. This bodes well for their ability as musicians, something that is only cemented further during “The Secret Life You Lead”. It is surprising that The Televangelist and the Architect is not a bigger act on the popular music stage, as tracks continue along the same strong vein that started out the disc.

The songs are not long in any stretch of the imagination, and if they are slightly longer, the ability of the band is high enough to make the songs seem as if they are a mere fraction of the time that they are normally. Even when the band moves into slower tempos, as is the case during the first part of “The Artificial Intelligentsia”, there are arrangements present that keep individuals enthralled to the band. A song like “August 13th” has hints of early Cure in the opening arrangements, a presence that shows that The Televangelist and the Architect is not bound into playing any general style of music during “Diaries of the Intelligentsia”. “Self-Propagating Mechanisms of Religion” is a late-disc track but is perhaps one of the strongest tracks on the disc. The Televangelist and the Architect is an act that does not have their output peter out by the end of the album, a fate that befalls a majority of acts currently on the market.

The multiple vocalists that are present during “Stimulus-Bound Behavior” is another high point for The Televangelist and the Architect, something present that brings the band into a domain that has previously been known by the output of bands like Latterman and Against Me, if not Operation Cliff Clavin and Defiance Ohio. This band is an act that will undoubtedly get bigger as the years pass, and while there are few tracks specifically on this album that will be considered singles, The Televangelist and the Architect make a solid album that can withstand multiple plays. Check out the band before they start climbing up the charts; you won’t be sorry.

Top Tracks: August 13th, An Attempt at Qualification

Rating: 6.9/10

– James McQuiston
December 28, 2006

Boston Globe

CAMBRIDGE — Until recently, the only photos of local band the Televangelist and the Architect featured lead singer Jerry Chen with a paper bag over his head. The bag has two incongruent squares cut out for visibility, and a straight, emotionless line for the mouth. The photos showed Chen in one of MIT’s libraries, leaning casually on a bookshelf, peering mysteriously out of the eyeholes.

Chen’s choice of headwear is a statement, and not a fashion one. The members of the Televangelist and the Architect never show their faces in photographs. They want to place importance on their music, rather than their image. “Those publicity photos that bands do are so silly,” Chen says after a recent Tuesday-evening rehearsal in the basement of his Kendall Square apartment.

Chen says music is a necessary escape from the stresses of his studies, not a means of seeking fame. He and drummer James Partridge are doctoral students in biology at MIT. They released an album titled “Diaries of the Intelligentsia ” earlier this year. The two spend their days experimenting with chemicals and high-tech instruments in MIT’s gleaming laboratories, and their nights experimenting with sounds and musical instruments in Chen’s dark basement.

The band has received nods of praise from audio bloggers and Boston-area publications alike, yet it remains relatively low on the local music radar — most likely because the group has spent more time in the studio than onstage. “We did it backward in a sense,” Chen says in an earlier interview on a rainy evening at the Druid Pub in Inman Square. “We did the recording first, and then afterward we wound up playing shows.” The band released “Diaries” in January but didn’t begin playing shows until March.

The 10 tracks on “Diaries” transition beautifully from folk to art rock on a virtual tour of places and viewpoints, with lyrics echoing the concerns of the American 20-something: disillusionment with nationalism, people who are posers, and the shortcomings of religion.

“And the anthem that plays/ does it fill you with pride/ or make you foreign inside? ” Chen sings on “Nationalism (Variations on a Theme),” which shifts from minimalistic minor chords to plucking waltz to pounding guitar riffs in less than five minutes.

Chen met Partridge, a drummer with an affinity for jazz and blues, in a class at MIT in 2004 and recruited him for the Televangelist and the Architect shortly thereafter. With the help of Margaret Ebert and Dallas Flanagan, who were both briefly band members, they began recording material Chen had already written for “Diaries.”

“The album was primarily me and Jerry,” Partridge says. Ebert and Flanagan have since departed for other musical ventures, and software engineer Chris Vicary and Sean Fitzgerald, who will begin film-score studies at Berklee in January, are recent additions to the band — as in still-learning-the-songs recent — via Craigslist.

But Chen is the heart of the Televangelist and the Architect. He is the band’s manager and produces its albums via Undetected Plagiarism, a label he founded with friends from UC Berkeley, where he studied biology as an undergrad. At that time he was part of a hard-rocking trio called Grand Unified Theory. When he decided to move to the East Coast to attend MIT, he began writing material for the Televangelist and the Architect’s first album, “The Mass Exodus From California.” He recorded it as a solo project with a menagerie of guest musicians, most of whom were from Chen’s eclectic circle of friends at UC Berkeley. Lyrically, the album centers on the physical and emotional shifts associated with his move, and the music corresponds with a quiet, long-drive-worthy steadiness.

Science, in its broadest sense, is about questions and the human need to answer them, and Chen’s music stems from a similar place. He says that the theme and influence of science on “Diaries of the Intelligentsia” was a conscious decision, for two reasons. “One, nobody really talks about it, and two, it’s what was going on in my life. Coming here and to grad school was a pretty significant change.”

Audio bloggers have compared Chen to Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, whom he cites as a musical influence. The two share the off-key veracity originally cultivated by Daniel Johnston. “I saw the similarities right away” on Chen’s earlier efforts, says Douglas Van Sloun of Studio B in Omaha. Sloun mastered both the Televangelist and the Architect’s and Grand Unified Theory’s albums, in addition to many Bright Eyes discs. “I didn’t get that as much on this last one. It had more originality and thought, and it seemed like what he’s supposed to be doing.”

When asked about the unusual band name, Chen references the response he gave in a Weekly Dig interview last summer: “We are the church that the architect built where now the televangelist preaches.”

It’s a response that’s almost as cryptic as a man wearing a paper bag.

– Caitlin Curran
Boston Globe
December 08, 2006

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