Tuesday, February 3, 2015

REVIEW: Twerps - Range Anxiety

It seems to me that Range Anxiety, the second LP from Melbourne's Twerps is an important opportunity for the band.  Already well known in their home country, where this album is released by home label Chapter Music, this is their first album for "big" indie Merge Records, which will release the Range Anxiety internationally.  And I can report that the band has seized the opportunity in grand fashion, making an excellent album without sacrificing the attributes that have allowed them to stand out from the crowd all along.

Twerps craft jangling guitar pop tunes that are full-sounding without being dense.  The melodies seem effortless and airy, but there is a fair amount of invention and coloring outside the lines in a typical Twerps tune, from the non-indie pop aggressiveness of the basslines to the instrumental breakouts at the end of a tune to the .... well, listen and enjoy the discovery.  Justifiable comparisons have been made to The Go-Betweens, The Pastels, Real Estate and certain Kiwi guitar bands.  And there certainly is truth to the notion of a shared devotion to melody, the DIY feel and a certain overall youthful shagginess.  But talented bands don't tend to stay in one place, and Twerps are neither beginning musicians nor kids.  While focused thematically on the sorts of musings that young people have, their writing is maturing, the performances are tighter, and the sound is cleaned up.  At one point this band could be tagged as lo-fi, but they have moved past that stage.  The tempos are varied, the sounds carefully layered.  Far from being overstuffed, even at 13 tracks, Range Anxiety leaves the listener wishing the band had dropped in a few more lush tunes.

This album explores the band's preoccupation with uncertainties, inadequacies, fears and indecision.  Apparently the album title itself refers to the fear of running out of gas.  But with pop music, it is all about the tunes and these tracks never let the subject matter get stale.  After the beginning 52 second keyboard instrumental of "House Keys", the album launches strongly with standout track "I Don't Mind".  A shaggy slow tempo song with a circular guitar riff and a Go-Betweens vibe, it highlights things the Twerps do well.  Adjust your earphones and listen to the narrator make the case for making no decisions and taking no positions.

The following "Back To You" boasts a jauntier melody, while Frawley complains that someone out there is "doing better than me", and he is happy to blame someone else for his condition.

On "Stranger" and "New Moves" the band hits full jangle pop stride, with an uptempo Kiwi rock meets California style that I expect to play as well everywhere as it does in my head.  "White as Snow" is a chugging little tale of a not-so-nice girl.  The melancholy "Shoulders" is another standout track, dealing with loneliness and resignation.

The album swings back into jangle pop vein with "Simple Feelings", a tale of an on-again, off-again relationship.  "Adrenaline" is a Julia's turn to sing about an obsessive relationship.

Range Anxiety then becomes somewhat less convetional, with the moody and atmospheric "Fern Murders" and the closing dream pop of "Empty Road".  In between are the jangling "Cheap Education" and  "Love at First Sight".  The latter is a gem of a song which sounds like a demo take of a band creating a slow dance number for a '60s high school prom, and I absolutely love it.

Twerps are Martin Frawley (guitar and vocals), Julia MacFarlane (guitar and vocals), Alex Macfarlane (drums and vocals), and Gus Lord (bass) (I don't know whether Gus or former bass player Rick Milovanovic worked on the recording of this album).  Range Anxiety is out now on CD, vinyl and digital via Merge Records internationally and Chapter Music down under.

Merge Records album page
Chapter Music album page (for Australia and New Zealand)

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I picked up this record earlier this month. The comparisons to past Flying Nun releases and The Feelies are unmistakable. I'm anticipating seeing them live in NYC next month.