Wednesday, August 6, 2014
In Revue- 'Wild Onion' (Twin Peaks)
Monday on the blog while discussing "Big Dusty," the noirish new single from Pro Era leader Joey Bada$$, I used the phrase "old soul" to describe how the 19-year-old sounds on wax. His rasp, combined with an affinity for sunny mid-90s boom bap, puts him out of sync with the current hip hop world. But no matter how misplaced he is in the musical landscape of 2014, I wish I had saved the phrase "old soul" for Chicago garage rock quartet Twin Peaks. Everything about the band and their euphoric sophomore LP Wild Onion makes me want to start checking IDs. I know musical appreciation can transcend age, my own birthday is nearly 30 years removed from the release of the Ronettes' "I Wonder," but Twin Peaks are a step beyond "appreciation." You don't land on an album cover like that unless you've spent hours staring at the record jackets for 60s acts like the Seeds or the Plastic Cloud. One spin of the Rolling Stone's Sticky Fingers doesn't birth "Brown Sugar"'s jangly fraternal twin "I Found a New Way." Hell even the title brings to mind Ognir and the Nite People's never-ran 1965 song "I Found a New Love." In a recent profile for Stereogum lead singer/guitarist Cadien Lake James told the site, "People are still digging back and finding the good s*** on their computers." From the aesthetic of Wild Onion James is almost certainly one of those nostalgic obsessives; clicking through countless hyperlinks of Nuggets rejects until he finds the one that hits his ear just right.
That's the only way I can explain early album standout "Mirror of Time." I'd bet my meager inheritance that I've heard those same guitars lightly chiming over the same slop bucket drums at least once. James' lysergic whine, "when I look at the tears from your eyes don't regret a single word that I've told her," has wafted into my ears before. Granted I would likely remember such a beautifully simplistic confession, which is what keeps me from screaming "COPYCAT!" James said in the aforementioned profile "I'm always going for the Beach Boys sounds even though it probably doesn’t come across much," and he's 1000% right. I don't hear one of Brian Wilson's "teenage symphonies to God" when I play "Mirror of Time." James’ talk of distance is more closely aligned with the frigid world of Raspberries precursors the Choir. In fact "Sloop Jay D," the band's tip of the hat to Pet Sounds track "Sloop John B," doesn't even faintly recall the Beach Boys' effort. It's too reverberated, too tossed off and far too snotty, "don’t be a p**** that’s what she f***ing told me," goes one lyric. Whatever familiar notes are ringing in the band's heads come out sounding very different.
Twin Peaks claim reverence for past acts, but there's a youthful flippancy on Wild Onion that keeps them from being a straightforward bar band. The blistering "Fade Away" could "walk in a straight line" across the Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" if not for the brief mid-song solo sending it off course. "Strange World"'s dreamy crawl is perfect for a "songs to relax to" playlist though it's over before you can even lay your head down. Aided by Connor Brodner's pattering drums and Clay Frankel's dew drenched guitar "Ordinary People" could be slotted on the Clientele's lush 2000 record Suburban Light without raising alarm; at least until the indeterminably eerie chattering starts. One way to describe Wild Onion is a mixtape someone's given you that they've re-winded or fast-forwarded too many times.
And like a 20-year-old cassette, Wild Onion has its defects. "Stranger World" is an unnecessary instrumental sequel bogged down by bleating horns and meandering guitar lines. Cadien Lake James vocal take on "Strawberry Smoothie" attempts the trick of sounding insecurely "powerful," a routine Big Star's "Feel" mastered in 1972. Jack Dolan's bass work at times is plagued by the same silent disease as many 60s garage rock songs. Several of James and Frankel's riffs feel like castoffs from the Exile on the Main Street, another big rock album the band rhapsodizes about. Oddly enough though, those slight failures to live up to the standards set by Twin Peaks’ heroes are what make Wild Onion so enjoyable. Not many kids are out there carving new work from the statues of legends.