Orion had opening honours on the first of Twerps’ two sold out nights and things weren’t looking promising after half an hour of vague attempts at tuning a guitar before a note was played. Once they got things sorted they proved to be an intriguing take on 80s goth music circa Joy Division and The Cure, establishing desolate yet danceable dark grooves.
The Garbage & The Flowers formed in Wellington, NZ in the late 80s before relocating to Sydney in the late 90s but those unfamiliar with the band would have been excused for thinking they had formed a week before this gig, such was their primitive, ramshackle approach to their songs and covers of Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds and Van Morrison. The influence of fellow jangly lo-fi bands like The Clean and The Bats was apparent and though they had a loose charm it was hard to relax and be transported by the songs when distracted by the feeling that it could all collapse at any moment.
Twerps took the stage to a full room and with Marty Frawley’s self-diagnosis of the early stages of laryngitis they launched into a consummate hour long set. They too are a band with strong sonic links to the Kiwi underground via their jangly, pastoral feel and the vocal approach of Frawley and Jules McFarlane – who brought to mind Denise Roughan of The 3Ds. It was also her guitar playing that more often than not provided the melodic focal point with hyper-catchy and economical chiming riffs. This year’s Range Anxiety album provided the high-points with I Don’t Mind, Back To You and Shoulders before they departed to the melancholic strains of Who Are You which echoed on as punters continued to hum and sing it as they dispersed into the night.
On Saturday July 20th Carriageworks in Sydney will host At First Sight which is being billed as a ‘vinyl romance’ style festival with 11 bands and more than 10 DJs soundtracking the day while you peruse the record bins of record stores, labels and private sellers. This is a killer line-upof bands that you are unlikely to see all on the same festival stage. Great music, great concept – embrace it.
HTRK, along with Twerps, The Laurels, Beaches, Super Wild Horses, Straight Arrows, Songs, Holy Balm, Day Ravies, Client Liaison, and Shining Bird
Yo Grito, Jimmy Sing, Count Doyle, Noise In My Head, Marcus King, Smokie La Beef, Basslines, Nic Warnock, Flash Back, Beat Club.
The biggest thought on most punters minds as they awoke was how the weather was going to affect the Sydney leg of this years Laneway Festival. Showers and wind were forecast, a contrast to previous years of hot sunny days encased in the sandstone walls of Rozelle’s SCA. The anticipated weather did intermittently sweep through the grounds but as is usually the case it served to galvanise the crowd and create a roll-with-it mood amongst the sea of plastic-clad revellers imbibing cider and sliding down slippery grass slopes.
On arrival one of the first tasks was to orient oneself with the new layout. The site had been expanded outside the immediate college buildings and now included the large sloping field near the entrance housing the main stage and a smaller adjacent one. The Courtyard Stage had always had issues of sight-lines and acoustics for the bigger acts so these changes were an excellent development alongside further diversification of the food on offer.
Much had been said about the curious timetabling decision to have Norwegians Kings of Convenience open the day but they were given a generous hour long set and they proved to be the perfect way to ease into the festival vibe with their sublime acoustic-based folk and endearing sense of humour. They added a full band for the 2nd half of their set, showcasing a wider angle to their sound.
Henry Wagons, in contrast to the twee openers, was his usual ball of humour and country rock. Playing tracks from his Expecting Company album and a superb Wanda Jackson cover he encouraged audience participation in the form of hangman’s noose death gurgles as he danced and lurched through the first few rows.
Twerps and their jangly US pop cousins Real Estate played back to back and though their music is perfectly suited for outdoor listening Real Estate’s sound mix meant they didn’t quite gel compared to the blissed out guitar pop of Twerps whose Dreamin’ was the first song of the day to hit the audience sweet spot.
Diversity has always been a hallmark of the festival curators and this year the harder, faster and heavier end of the spectrum was filled by The Men, Cloud Nothings and Japandroids. The latter two enjoyed the larger crowds and some fervent crowd surfing and projectile throwing due to their spots later on the bill but The Men were the more revelatory of the three, locking in with a rush of punk and psych-rock intensity and dalliances with country music. Japandroids were suffered a muddy kick-drum heavy mix but the fans were oblivious, caught up in the anthemic punk maelstrom.
With the larger acts programmed on the new Park Stage it become the focal point for the crowds who draped themselves over the hillsides and it must have been a magical sight for the musicians gazing up the palm tree dotted slopes. In the wake of Hottest 100 success The Rubens, Of Monsters & Men and Alt-J drew predictably large and celebratory crowds. They sat on shoulders, swayed and screamed along but musically he first two offered little in terms of musical highlights. They sounded like generic music for a generic festival audience but that is the whole point of Laneway, it caters to many tastes from people there purely for the music to those there for the communal festival experience.
Hitting the smaller stages meant discovering artists with a smaller core fan-base. Julia Holter’s sublime voice cut a path through the drizzling rain offering respite from some of the grand gestures on the main stages while EL-P showed just why he is so respected as an underground hip hop artist with his intense rapid fire rhyming over a live band that created some futuristic and often dystopian beats. Jessie Ware was probably the oddest inclusion on the line-up in the sense that hers is a contemporary R&B sound but she proved another highlight with a voice that killed it live and a band that knew the importance of less is more and the power of bass. The crowning glory of the Future Classic curated stage came late in the night with Nicolas Jaar who drew a surprisingly large crowd seeing as he was up against local hero Flume. The sonic clarity of his futuristic electronica made for a wonderfully immersive set that impressed with its musical details rather than big beats or crescendo build-ups.
While Bat For Lashes entranced the majority of the audience with her elegant and creative pop music, Divine Fits were putting the exclamation mark on the festival playing their superb debut album and musically summing up the sounds of the day with their mix of pop melodies, inventive rhythms and an equal dose of rock. The twin vocals of Britt Daniels and Dan Boeckner rang clear into the night and their last song, a cover of Rowland S. Howard’s Shivers felt like the perfect conclusion to a day that saw the expansion and improvement of the Laneway Festival while still retaining a firm hand on the pulse of eclectic contemporary music.
Jonny Telafone kicked things off with his kid on overload performance that rivals Donny Benet for its tongue in cheek pastiche, kitchen sink electro and synth pop cheesiness. There is no doubt that Telafone is a great performer even if he is just singing over Suicide-tinged backing tracks from his laptop but with song titles like Make Your Pussy Cum and his exaggerated gyrations and gestures it is hard to keep a straight face. You’d think this would have a limited shelf life but Telafone has been at it for a few years now and ultimately it is highly entertaining stuff.
Songs have been settled in their new line-up for a while now and with bassist Ela Stiles contributing more to the songwriting their sound has continued to shape-shift and incorporate different styles. Most of the songs they played have been written post the release of their debut album and show an increased focus on rhythm and groove. The jangly guitar of their earlier work has been absorbed into the more muscular framework of the newer material with the one constant still being the insistent krautrock repetition that permeates much of their sound. The balance between the sweet vocals of Stiles and Max Doyle’s higher pitched, vowel-chewing style is now finely balanced with both filling the role of front-person. Sonically they had it on a string, grinding a groove deep into the ears of the audience before spraying discordant noise across the music and then reining it all back in with choreographed precision. Songs continue to evolve, expand and refine their art and hopefully they’ll grace us with that second album sooner rather than later.
Twerps are one of the most unassuming bands around both visually and in terms of their familiar and reassuring jangly guitar pop. They appeared on stage and seamlessly transformed their setup/soundcheck into their set proper. The sell-out audience rewarded the quartet for their stellar last twelve months with exuberant applause and crowded in close around the front and side of the stage making the performance feel even more intimate and communal. We got most of the album plus a new track that sounded instantly the match of even the strongest songs they’ve released to date.
The unassuming nature of Twerps extends to the subject matter of their songs that take in love, boredom, dreams and the everyday concerns of living and live they nail that laconic melancholia as effortlessly as they do on their recordings. Martin Frawley sings nearly all the songs but when guitarist Julia McFarlane steps up to take lead vocal on excellent This Guy it opens up their sound immensely and it is a shame her voice isn’t used more extensively. Frawley’s voice is an exposed and often fragile instrument on stage but it works perfectly with their sound. They always seemed to be playing just behind the beat giving the songs that worn and gloriously lazy sound. Who Are You drifted along gorgeously, generating head swaying aplenty while Coast To Coast amplified the debt they owe to the best of the Flying Nun Records stable. The defining moment came with the and its sun-dazed psychedelia of Dreamin and bassist Rick Milovanovic’s reliably solid, melodic playing.
Twerps departed the Goodgod stage with as little fuss as they arrived and it felt right that there was no encore. This is a band who played their set, entertained the audience and by the look of it got a lot of quiet satisfaction from playing their wonderfully wandering tunes.
The first list of acts performing at this year’s Meredith Music Festival in Victoria has been announced and as usual it looks to be a great mix of electronic, psychedelia, rock and hip hop. Check out our Rdio playlist featuring bands appearing at the event that takes place from December 7-9th.
There is a ballot happening so if you want to increase your chance of being allocated a ticket you need to head to www.mmf.com.au before 10pm Tuesday 21 August. Round One has been drawn and results hit inboxes Wednesday 15 August. Round Two results out Thursday 23 August.
So many people are starting to base their listening on songs these days, such is the reduction in attention spans, the proliferation of YouTube browsing and the ease of compiling ones own playlists featuring the best stuff you want to hear. Separate to my Top 50 LPs of 2011 I’ve also put together a list of songs that caught my ears and became hard to shake. There were of course dozens of others that could be included here but this is a lucky dip of sorts into some of my favourite tunes of 2011 that might lead you further into the artist’s work if you havent checked them out yet…
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.