Here’s another solid crew from a rumbling Chicago cracked-pop demi-scene (Space Raft, Nones, Heavy Times) that feels like the usually weirder, record-collecting, $3.50 beer-fed, Midwest answer to the sunnier trash-pop sounds going down in Oakland and L.A. This young quartet has no doubt snuck through the back door of many of those bands’ gigs, getting a pat on the head, kiddo, while, unbeknownst, conjuring up something wholly bigger.
Wild Onion, Twin Peaks’ second LP, is an effortless flow of kicking feet, boppin’ heads, and up’n’down hooks that comes rolling out as if from a Vortex long neck. The few vestiges of lo-fi groping left from their debut (2013’s Sunken) are left back around the 6 notch as the volume knob goes clockwise and they decide to let all their songwriting smarts hang out. Unlike similarly keg-hunting honchos like FIDLAR, Jacuzzi Boys, et al, this never sticks to Joe Trucker Cap swigging. Twin Peaks do little, simple things that aren’t exactly earth-shattering, just seemingly verboten for post-Black Lips bands, like clean guitar lines, lead vocal shifts from memeber to memeber, from crooning to screaming and back, chintzy chiming guitar pedals (that are sometimes an iffy choice) and fading in and/or out of songs instead of shock cuts.
On the glorious opener I Found A New Way, they opt for surprisingly fresh effects on their riffs, making for some nifty, just-under-the-surface harmonics and with backup vocal “ah-ahhs” hovering. Guitarist/singer Clay Frankel starts out low, almost slowed down, but you soon get his predominant mood of electrocuted excitement, screaming like if Iggy were 20 in 1979 and trying to loosen the skinny tie his power pop band manager implored him and the lads to wear. “I see the future, I can see the weather change.” And suddenly the song fades out, with Frankel still extolling his newfound way. The sunny little solo that comes skipping out of the otherwise raucus Flavor is cute until it sinks in what a cool twist it adds, underlining the airiness of the song. Strawberry Smoothie has a fun-thuggish Dictators vibe that mid-song starts rising up to colorwheel soloing. There’s a touch of Smiths-cum-Strokes shimmer about Telephone. The groovy riffs of No Way Out and Good Loving are played like Keith Richards rolling in the sluiced-off tray of a bubblegum factory. And the slinky, candy-R&B of Making Breakfast (“Nothing is forever, but don’t let it get you down”) sets Twin Peaks up to be the J. Geils Band of their generation, whatever that may entail.
I’m guessing they’d be the last to say this, or agree with it, but underneath, there is something pretty moving going on here. Like the jangly stunner Hold On, when James talk-sings of needing to be held tight. Some worry rumbles under a lot of this summer funnin’. That Beach Boys-nicked album cover art with the nonetheless shadowy pic of the band is obvious if telling. As is the Pet Sounds-ing Mirror Of Time followed by a song called Sloop Jay D. where bassist Jack Dolan starts off in a boyish tone singing, “You got me feeling so lucky, and I hope that you fuck me.” Crass, hoping, no doubt lonely, and probably not getting regularly shtupped. So yeah, they show their ’60s jangle-pop hand early on, unapologetically, but the production is mostly prickly enough amongst some multi-track vocals and the coming/going chimy guitar and organ bits. Tempos are mixed up just enough to keep you guessing. And the overall spirit never dampens much wetter than “bummed.”
They do go a little too syrupy at times, Ordinary People and Strange World is a little generic in its psych-pop swirl, the cheap pedal noodling just sounds a bit corny. The sax soloing away in instro Stranger World is more interesting in its fleeting instrumental interlude way. There are some long lost ghosts of ’70s AM floating around, but that haunting has been flowing through garage rock for a couple years now. This bunch has made sure the over-used sonic equivalent—constant over-reverb and buried echoed vox—got exorcized from this house. And keeping the tunes under 2 & ½ minutes always helps.
This doesn’t feel like yet more easy-trash, pool party punk (though it is that, and good at it), but something that has a preternatural songwriting zing and energy not predicated on just the fumbling charm of a stained ’80s metal t-shirt and Ronettes knowledge, but actual, like charm. Let’s call it the New Slop-timism.