written by Chris Familton
This has been a bumper year for wistful guitar music brimming with melodies and laidback vibes – perfectly suited to soundtracking either a dreary autumn day or the warming expectation of summer. Real Estate, Girls and Oh Mercy are at the more immediate end of the spectrum but not far behind are a gang of Melbourne musicians in bands like Twerps and labelmates Dick Diver. They are the quiet cousins of fellow Victorians Eddy Current Suppression Ring, replacing that krautrock punkism with a jangly aesthetic, softer edges and a meandering path through their music.
This is their first full length following a string of singles and an EP and it is far and away their most accomplished moment to date. They have cleaned up their sound by recording in a studio and it serves them well without sacrificing any of the ramshackle vibe of some of their earlier material. Twerps are constantly compared to the first wave of Dunedin bands on the iconic Flying Nun label and that influence has been embraced, even openly celebrated on the first track Dreamin’ which is the best song never written by The Clean and The Bats. The simplicity and repetition of the guitar chords and vocal melody burn a comfortable hole in your memory as they weave a genuine pop nugget. Taking the FN reference into the next track Don’t Be Surprised there is a strong tip of the hat to Chris Knox and Shayne Carter in its angst and nervous energy.
It sounds like Twerps were mindful of sounding too slick on the record and Who Are You is a prime example where they include wayward vocals that work because they are so lazy and out of tune. It suits the song perfectly, building an intimacy into the music that is often so hard to capture in the studio. They sing about getting drunk and high and it sounds like a band scattering shared polaroid memories across stained carpeted floors in share houses.
This record isn’t all fey indie strumming though. Bring Me Down bears a strong resemblance to Paul Kelly’s storytelling mannerisms while Grow Old is a delay and reverb drenched piece of droning, dreamy psych pop. It shows they are perhaps still trying to fine-tune the balance between experimental aspects of their sound and the cleaner pop driven song format. The latter wins out by a country mile but they would be well served to cling onto the more obtuse elements of their nature to avoid slipping into any Belle & Sebastian traps of blandness. For now they have produced one of the more coherent and fully formed Australian albums of 2011. Twerps sound effortless, familiar yet not slavishly replicating old sounds on an LP overflowing with honest and organic sonic postcards.
This review was first published on The Dwarf