What’s that sound? Is it the squelch of eyeballs rolling wearily at yet another band proclaiming their appreciation of David Lynch’s beloved murder mystery series? Well, eyeballs everywhere can rest easy knowing that Chicago latecomers Twin Peaks don’t claim their namesake is an influence, they just think it sounds cool. Fair enough.
In fact, there’s nothing referential about them. What you get instead is four twenty-year-olds with a penchant for Coors Light and cannabis, so much so that their SXSW performance was noted mostly for its smoky debauchery. But if second album Wild Onion proves anything, it’s that Twin Peaks aren’t fame hungry chancers, they’re probably as cool as they think they are.
Opening with lead single ‘I Found A New Way’, guitarist Clay Frankel lays down a wiry and brittle three chord riff that sounds like an updated ‘Street Fighting Man’. Much of the press bumf surrounding this band draws needless comparisons to Smith Westerns or Thee Oh Sees, (probably because singer Cadien James’s brother is the Smith Westerns touring drummer). More accurate comparisons would point to The Kinks, Deerhunter and Thin Lizzy. ‘Mirror of Time’ is a slow and distinctly British sounding number that wouldn’t be out of place on a late sixties Kinks record, and the nostalgic sun-bleached sound of Thin Lizzy permeates cuts like ‘Telephone’ and ‘Good Lovin’’. It all works to suggest that Twin Peaks are a real rock band still in their infancy.
Another commonplace is to pit them against fellow Chicago rockers and touring buddies The Orwells. Where The Orwells write garage rock by numbers, Twin Peaks are more concerned with experimentation. Halfway marker ‘Stranger World’ is a surreal yet convincing saxophone solo on a record that’s covered in brash and psychedelic guitars. When they go all out, as on ‘Sloop Jay D’ and ‘Fade Away’, they get it on point – the guitars are frenetic to the point of mania, and the lyrics are brazenly cheeky to the point of shocking: ‘You got me feeling so lucky / And I hope that you fuck me / And I hope that you love me’. It all combines with a keen melodic ear to make an album that’s oddly clever and lovable in its affected naivety.
While this is a major leap from first LP Sunken, the best songs on that album equate to the worst songs here, they still have a long way to go before they net decent festival slots. The production on this album severely limits its replayability. Much of it is caked in a tinny reverb which makes the vocals and instrumental parts indistinct, though they’re good enough to play dry. And while there is much to admire in a young band presenting a sixteen track LP, you can’t help but wonder what could have been shaved in the interest of brevity. Still, the verdict is clear: Twin Peaks are an exciting enterprise and they keep getting better.
Live: Birthdays – October 7th