Flavor is available via:
Wild Onion (the album) can be pre-ordered at:
I Found a New Way
Mirror of Time
Sloop Jay D
5th August, 2014
ALL SONGS WRITTEN BY:
Twin Peaks (Twin Peaks Dudes Publishing/ASCAP)
Twin Peaks, R. Andrew Humphrey and Colin Croom
R. Andrew Humphrey and Colin Croom at The Observatory Studios (Chicago)
Doug Boehm in Los Angeles, CA.
Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound (Los Angeles)
(C) Druid Dude Music (ASCAP), Murphy Lives Music (ASCAP), Barackafella Records (ASCAP), and Ben Franklin Tunes (ASCAP)
Power-Pop, Glam-Rock, Indie, Pop, Rock.
Fresh-faced Chicago quartet Twin Peaks have birthmarks of Big Star and Smith Westerns. Their youthful, fun-filled and energetic codas have been leaving fans and reviewers open-mouthed: Flavor is a hypnotic slab of summer-ready swagger- we are about to witness a wonderful Power-Pop explosion
A number of different topics are on my mind…
at the moment. One of the most pressing and persistent nags concerns youthfulness: the issue of fresh-faced energy. Most of my reviews look at acts that are in their 20s- or 30s in a few cases- and those in the embryonic stages of adulthood. As an embittered bystander in his early-30s (I jest of course), I am instilled with a little jealousy when I come across a red-hot and ambitious young artist: it takes a lot of guts and determination to make a move that early in life- some only make it as far as a few songs before they crumble under the weight of expectation. My approach has been to wait a while and hone as much as possible: I have been writing since my late-teens and feel that my best work is a few years away- I am reluctant to jump in just now through fear of not being at my very best. Music is a mood swing mistress that can embrace and proffer those undeserving; slap-down the most fervent and forward-thinking- the young and restless musicians coming through are determined to succeed no matter what. When assessing many of my favourite U.K.-based young musicians, one thing never changes: their unabatable ambition and passion. I guess it is a good idea to enter the music scene when you are in your late-teens/early-20s- the industry is getting younger as the years go by. I often wonder whether the most tender and juvenile will find it hard to obtain long-term success: most of the mainstream’s legendary acts got to that lofty position having harvested a unique sound- most of the young mainstream acts coming through today are in danger of disappearing before they reach their 30th birthday. Of course, my scepticism bears both truth and exaggeration: current beaus such as Sam Smith may not be riding the crest of the wave several years from now, but there are plenty of bands and acts that have the ammunition to enjoy prosperous longevity. What it all comes down to, is hitting upon a sought-after sound: music that is urgent and all-encompassing; lyrics that are personal and can be extrapolated by all; vocals that do more than just come along for the ride- that is the way you will make it many years from now. Before I continue on my point, I want to introduce my featured act. I have surveyed- over the last few months- many U.S.-based acts: most have emanated from New York or L.A., though I have investigated acts from Arkansas and Missouri- these chaps hail from the fair city of Chicago. Being the 3rd most populus city in America (after New York and Los Angeles) I am surprised I have not heard more from the Illinois hot-spot: there is a thriving and growing music scene here, although not on the same level as the likes of New York, Los Angeles or Seattle. Twin Peaks are a quartet of teens- they may have just turned 20 actually- that are going to be putting Chicago right in the top flight:
Cadien Lake James- (Vocals)
Clay Frankel- (Guitar)
Jack Dolan- (Bass)
Connor Brodner- (Drums)
Despite sharing a band name with a fair few other acts, these Twin Peaks surmount and overthrow any like-minded artists: the boys have known each other since birth, and have a natural sympatico that marks their music aside from the rest. Power-Pop is a genre of music that is relatively widespread, yet few manage to make a decent stab of it: the Chicageans manage to master the form without coming across as overly-familiar or in-your-face. In order to create decent Power-Pop mandate, you must strike a balance between looseness and slaved-over fine dynamics- if you do get that right then the world is your oyster. When paying tribute to Steely Dan recently, I stated what (for me) defined their music: they managed to mix effortless and loose breeziness with fastidious and well-rehearsed strands- their resultant sounds are amongst the most nuanced, inspiring and richest the world has ever seen. The quarter may not be on the same wavelength as Messrs. Fagen and Becker, yet my point remains: offer that componcney to the listener, and you will strike gold.
Having already released the mini-L.P. (Sunken), the band have made their intentions known. Strands of Iggy Pop, Replacements and The Strokes come through in biting rushes Out of Commission; Ocean Blue and Irene are softer and floating numbers- the latter contains a compelling falsetto vocal line and waterfall guitars. The album is a lo-fi treat that employs influences of other bands, yet shows a clear and particular personality: shimmering beauties such as Baby Blue are modest cuts that showcase a distinct identity and sense of purpose. The nature of the lyrics- and themes of the songs- have changed since then: upcoming discs Wild Onion and Flavor E.P. add maturity and new-found love stories: the sound, dynamics and balance of subject matter remains loyal and intact. Being a fledgling act, you would not expect a radical leap from Sunken to Flavor: the group have such a breathless work ethic that it is hard to reinvent themselves or evolve too much. What the interim period has given birth to is a sense of confidence: the feeling of happy fun and headlong rush- that was synonymous on Sunken– is augmented and cemented (on Flavor). Spurred on by critical acclaim, there is newfound ambition and sense of direction in their current work: their songwriting is deeper and more diverse; their sound is more rounded and impressive- making the overall listening experience more enjoyable and well-rounded.
When it comes to identifying comparable sounds, the most obvious soundalike that comes through is Smith Westerns. The fellow Chicago band arrived prior to Twin Peaks; the two have some overlap across their songs: Smith Westerns’ Glam-Rock-cum-Indie-Rock moulds make their presence felt in a few cuts on Sunken/Flavor E.P. I am not sure what Wild Onions will offer, but it is likely that some further hints (of their fellow Chicago quartet’s) templates will come to the fore. That is not to say that Twin Peaks are the same band or a second-fiddle equivalent: such is the sense of rush and energy- in both bands- it is hard not to compare them. Sensations of Big Star’s early-’90s work can be detected as well; shades of Teenage Fanclub and The Posies linger in some numbers: that blend of ’80s and ’90s Power-Pop magic has been reinterpreted by our intrepid four-piece. As well as masters such as Iggy Pop making their influence known, it would be incongruous to lump Twin Peaks in with other acts: these guys are their own men and have a very stylised and fresh projection. If you like your music with an edge of cockiness; some perspective on the inequities of young love and modern life; sweaty rush and compelling force- seek out the fabled Chicago quartet. Few other acts- certainly in this country- have such an enthusiastic and uplifting set of songs: if you want to smile and be swept away, then there are not many other bands that do it as well as Twin Peaks.
After a brief percussive slam and pummel assault, James arrives on the mic. Flavor‘s newborn moments are packed with Indie and Punk rambunctiousness: the vocal line swaggers with alpha male roar and spit- it brings to mind the ’60s/’70s Power-Pop/Punk heyday, and kicks the track off emphatically. Twisted, oblique and spiked words get the listener in inquisitive mode: “I was born not breathing/Since I’ve woke up everyday” are the opening lines, and harbour a mixture of teenager sentiment, anger and moodiness. The entire band is tight and completely in step with one another- you can tell they have been performing with each since high school. The percussive kick, guitar punch and bass strangle mean the words tumble, poke and blaze: a huge amount of emotional rush and headiness is elicited in the opening seconds. Mentioning “the victims of the U.S.A.”, James seems in unsympathetic mood: “They all keep talking but have nothing to say.” You can sense a feeling of unease and discontentment in our hero’s tones: he seems aghast at the state of things, and utterly saturated by events. Whether referring to his fellow generation or addressing a wider malaise, you can hear the conviction and urgency come through: the vocal is hammer-blow and razor-sharp- it manages to twist and weave. Our hero modulates and teases his vocals; certain words are elongated and emphasised, whilst others are scattershot and bellowed- flavour notes of U.K.-based idols Alex Turner and Mile Kane come through in the accent and phrasing. Few young acts have such a sense of understanding- of classic Power-Pop and Indie- yet Twin Peaks come across as an established and legendary act: you get the impression you are hearing a fresh band from the ’60s hitting their creative peak. No loose edges or open seams linger: the performance is constantly engaging and solid throughout the early stages. By the time we reach the end of the first verse, so much energy and campaigning has already been completed- you are hooked and compelled. The song’s chorus (“Flavor your heart and your soul“) acts as a truncated mantra: James’s full-bloodied and epic vocal delivery is designed to get your arms pumping- and will no doubt get future festival crowds pogo-ing and leaping about muddy field (with excitement). After a thorough debriefing and missile strike, the boys swing round for verse two and a sense of personal revelation comes into the fray. Whereas the opening sentiments looked at victim culture and dislocation, new ideas point towards contentment and contemplation. James has been through a hard past (“I searched and drifted and grieved, man“) in order to discover who he wants to be: the inflamed and viper-like delivery make every word sound wracked with desperation and need. As well as being accompanied in vocal unison by his band members, the individual players make their sentiments known. Frankel’s guitars combine with James’s: they are secondary (in terms of force) to the vocal, yet drive the song forward and instill a huge amount of grit and alcohol-fuelled lust. Dolan’s bass is a muscular and taut monster; able to join the vocal and guitar together, it also contains looser corners- able to inject some cool detachment to proceedings. With Brodner’s striking percussion ensuring the song never misses a beat, you get plenty of genuine classic Power-Pop pummel. James took a trip to the sea; laying beneath evergreen trees, he engages in self-assessment and discovery- concluding that he is best as he is and no need to change. The anxiety that stung within the opening verse (“It had me seizing up/and so the season’s up“) is reversed and eradicated: with this new-found sense of belonging, our hero seems in a better frame of mind- and ready to ramble on. After a reintroduction of the chorus, the electricity and bluster takes a back seat: tripping and twirling acoustic notes take its place, and offer a sense of relaxation and calm- for a brief moment at least. Once more for the chorus it seems: repeated and reinvigorated, it is the perfect end to the track- the listener is free to consider all that has come before.
It is rare to hear a song (by any band or act) that is not centred on love and romance: Twin Peaks step away from well-trodden avenues and offer something deeper and more original. Politicised notions and questions of the self nestle with tranquility and epiphany- the band manage to make their words both simple yet complex all at once. A lot of credit- in this first round- must be given to the entire band: they have a closeness and sense of understanding that overcomes their tender years- they showcase the sort of intuition some bands twice their age lack. When it comes to the limelight, (and who sticks out) no one band member is allowed dictatorship. James marks himself out as one of the most direct and captivating voices on the modern circuit- there are undertones of the greats of old, yet such is the sense of youthful and captivating urgency; he can make anything sound vital. His band mates (as well as James Thomas Fleming) add additional layers of voice: when they combine, you get the impression of an army drill being sung and chanted- it has that same effect on you. The song’s musicianship and performance is constantly engaging and surprising. Although the vocal sits higher in the mix, you cannot ignore the sonic elements: the guitars are rattlesnake sharp and filled with edge and attitude; the drum work is emphatic and solid from beginning to end; the bass keeps it all in check, whilst adding its own weight and conjecture. The band’s Wild Onion album will contain sixteen tracks, so it is vital that there are no rough edges or filler in the pack. The White Stripes incorporated the same amount of songs within White Blood Cells, and it seems like an apt comparison: there are those same raw production values and Blues-tinged vocals; a similar ambition when it comes to naked and ragged sounds- that mixture of soul and venom. The White Stripes managed to keep intrigue high by ensuring there were enough shorter tracks- Aluminum, Fell in Love with a Girl, Little Room, Now Mary– to keep the album from becoming bloated- in fact only four of the L.P.’s tracks surpass three minutes. Flavor is a 2:02 explosion of sound and intention (that a young Jack White would kill for): I have not heard Wild Onion, but one suspects it will contain quite a few short, sharp bursts. Too many acts emphasise long and ponderous tracks: by presenting something so concise, the boys show huge insight and maturity- and prove they are capable of distilling a huge amount of weight, without needless solo-ing or aimlessness. With such an ear for catchiness and texture, Twin Peaks make sure the listener is on the edge of their seat- their forthcoming releases will be met with fevered anticipation. Sloppiness and well-rehearsed sounds come together expertly; contradictions run amok: raw and soft, electric and still; composed yet ramshackle are perfectly paired- nothing seems forced or laboured, and the song lives up to its potential and promise. The ghosts of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star hover over Flavor: their sense of captivation and youthful abandon can be seen within the track’s stirring outpourings. Cadien Lake James and his band of brothers are going to be judged and determined on the strength of Flavor: the song is going to win legions of fans in very little time.
The next few weeks are going to be eventful and jam-packed. Sunken‘s octet of tracks were abound with fuzz, flavour, flair and some good-time elements: sophisticated arrangements, excitement and sex appeal. Subjects looked at teenage angst, pretty girls, street cruising and late-night drinking: issues that a lot of artists touch on, but few have Chicago as their setting and our quartet as tour guides. Excitement and anticipation was high following the mini-L.P.’s release: Flavor builds on previous sounds and themes, and keeps the momentum strong: it is possibly their most assured cut to date, and is a blustering, ramshackle statement of intent. Filled with exceptional guitars, urgent vocals and killer hooks, it is a mouth-watering insight into what Wild Onion and Flavor E.P. will possess. The E.P. is arriving next (July 7th) and will provide us in the U.K. a chance to hear where they are right now- as well as offering many their first experience of the band. Our boys are not exactly clean-living and shy icons: they have a unapologetic sense of rebellion and emancipation; kick and spit practically hit the speakers- plenty of sunshine, romance and sophistication can be discovered. I began this review by mentioning two points: the lack of great Power-Pop acts, as well as the uncertain life young acts face (in modern music). Knowing about the likes of Smith Westerns, I am always surprised there are not more acts like them: in the U.K. we have few artists that provide a similar authority and sense of confidence. In the U.S., there is a growing wave of up-and-coming Power-Pop outsiders: Twin Peaks are going to be the artists to beat. Being in their early-20s, it is easy to forgive slight immaturity and teeange-themed song books- the exhilaration and thrills they put forth take you somewhere special. Their sound is something that would fit well in the U.K.: we have a huge amount of headrush, thrill-a-minute bands that would not only support Twin Peaks- they would push them to become better and more ambitious. Venues and acts throughout London and Britain would happily host the boys- I hope that they do come here to play very shortly. With it being festival season; eyes and ears are focused on the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica and Arctic Monkeys: acts that compel and inspire by force and majesty. The four-piece have managed to rise and climb a lot over the last year, so I would not be shocked if they were to be festival darlings in coming years. There are a lot of bands out there that are so-so and ineffectual: those that swing, slam and seduce deserve wide acclaim and appreciation. Flavor demonstrates just how much punch can be packed into a couple of minutes of music- their upcoming E.P. and L.P. will build on this and demonstrate how multifarious and scintillating they are. Song titles such as Strawberry Smoothie and Good Lovin’ (from Wild Onion) practically drip with potential- make sure you grab a copy of the album in August. The word ‘youth’ can be seen as a synonym for ‘inexperienced’ and ‘lightweight’: Twin Peaks have an intelligence, sense of accomplishment and confidence that few other acts showcase- even those well-established in the mainstream. It is clear they will be making big waves in years to come, so make sure you investigate their current offerings- it is an exciting and prosperous time for the band. If you long for an exciting and brave flavour (or should that be flavor?) with a wonderful aftertaste…
ENSURE you make this quartet a staple diet.
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