We’ve been digging on this Cincinnati band for awhile now, so it’s hard to believe this is only their debut album, and that’s after just some Bandcamp tracks. Sonically, Tweens self-titled debut does not come across as simply the opening salvo of another trashy garage band. Well, it is that, and then some, as the manic energy sustains throughout, adding up to a definite “One to keep your eye out for” moment. And singer/guitarist Bridget Battle has that itchy, agitated lyrical angle down pat. Like her protestations in the very first tune, Bored In This City, that “this town, it’s eating me alive.” But frankly, it sounds more like she’s gobbling up the Queen City and spitting it back out.
Meanwhile, Battle’s guitar chops in a raw, groovy grind, like on one of their best tunes, Be Mean, a re-do of one of those fine Bandcamp tracks. Song titles like Hardcore Boy followed by Girlfriend (“Never want you to believe/I wanted to be your girlfriend”) certainly aid glib if legit riot grrrl tagging. And yes, Battle’s squeak-split vocal craving and arch-melodies cut through in that most zine-slapping ‘93 manner. But if you’re going to go ‘90s here, Tweens’ affinity for midcentury sock-hop pop are as much Muffs bubblegum cracking as bikini killing. The hooks are herculean, as is the perfectly punchy rhythm section. Both blokes—Peyton Copes on bass, Jerri Queen on drums—play like they think they could play better than the other. And soon enough, that timeless chemical spark of the classic power trio raises the band above our hefty catalog of post-guitar era checklisting.
They can sway away into dreamier territory, as on the waves-washing ashore ballad, Want You. And there’s a good, slamming instrumental (Stoner) right in the middle of the record, which is always a good tact to get you to snap back to attention, and shows this band does indeed come from an analog angle of flow and purpose.
Later though, Forever unassumingly rolls out as the record is starting to wind down, and suddenly it seems like things went from great promising debut to promise-fulfilled third album hit single. (“My heart is breaking from the beating.” How’s that for a pop hit chorus?) It strikes you that the band’s songwriting, Battle’s vocal command, and the musical muscle is effortlessly melded. Which then has you heading back to the beginning of the record and realizing they’d hooked you from that very first tune.
All three Tweens are not, and have been in previous bands with regional work under their belts. So perhaps the band’s effortlessness is to be expected. But nonetheless, melding it all onto a debut is always impressive.