Thursday, September 4, 2014

REVIEW: Twerps - Underlay EP

We think it is time to introduce you to some twerps.  But these aren't garden variety, annoying friends of your little brother kind of twerps.  The twerps we're writing about here are the Twerps, one of Melbourne's finest guitar pop bands.  What makes them special?  The easy answer is that this foursome turns out engaging, melodic music that will charm any music fan who likes the sound of The Clean, The Bats or The Go-Betweens.  But for me, another aspect of their appeal is that they are unafraid to take their songs into territory not often trod by guitar bands.  Many songs begin in a familiar, but well executed, lo-fi guitar pop vein, but break out into something unexpected at some point.  Occasionally the unusual dominates from the opening note, as is the case with "Heavy Hands", the opening track of Twerps new EP, Underlay.  So, while this band can jangle with the best of their peers, they seem define themselves in broader, and more adventurous terms.

Twerps are Martin Frawley (guitar, vocals), Julia McFalane (guitar, vocals), Rick Milovanovic (bass, vocals), and Alex Macfarlane (drums, vocals).  They have a couple of past LPs to their credit.  Underlay is their first release with their new US label, Merge Records, while in Australia and New Zealand they remain with Melbourne's Chapter Music.

Underlay consists of eight tracks.  The aforementioned "Heavy Hands" begins proceedings with a thoroughly entertaining sound I can only describe as indie dub Cabaret (and by the way, my kudos to Rick on bass).  "Conditional Report" and "California Clay" steer into more traditional guitar pop expressions, but with different effect.  The former is  a more upbeat tune, while forming a rhythmic bridge to track three.  "California Clay" is a slow paced, almost drone pop track.

A standout is the wonderful fourth track, "Hypocrite", which plays out like a treasured song from The Clean's catalog.  However, at about the 2:45 point the track dissolves into an entertaining sonic experiment that never loses its tether to the original track, but never quite returns either..

Twerps firm command of wistful guitar pop in the manner of The Go-Betweens is on display in the following track, "Raft" --

"Wait Til You Smile" and "Consecutive Seasons" present delightfully executed jangle pop.  The former, sung by Julia, is delicate and hopeful, and repeated listens reveal it to be one of the stronger tracks on the EP.  Pay attention to the final 1:20, which play out like a secret instrumental track.  The latter, voiced by Martin, is weary and jaded, but seems a fitting close.

Listening to Underlay underscores that one of the strengths of this band is that there are no weak links.  Martin and Julia are effective vocalists and their guitars do just what they are needed to do.  Rick's bass provides a dynamic and sturdy background to the songs.  And Alex, recently recruited to play with Twerps as well as his other band, The Stevens, hits the kit with clean, perfectly timed strikes and understated flair.

Merge Records
Chapter Music
Chapter's Bandcamp for Underlay

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