13 August 2009

The Twang: “Jewellery Quarter”

Indie rock – that term again. A generic, throwaway term to lump a bunch of bands (from Arctic Monkeys to Imogen Heap) into one label, or better yet a description of the vast majority of newer bands on the festival circuit. Remember the days when it exclusively meant from an independent label, and not a band on Universal or EMI? Well, when it comes to the Twang, it is appropriate. Signed to B-Unique Records, they have just released their second album, “Jewellery Quarter,” on 3 August 2009, which is available in the USA as an import. The album is name “Jewellery Quarter,” which is an actual area in Birmingham, England, famous for manufacturing coins, being the birthplace of many innovations and most importantly is the location where the Twang’s recording studio is.

From first listen, there is something familiar about this music, almost as if it were an old pair of jeans you can slip right into. With their own take on this “indie rock-pop” fad, they bring their own almost bubbly take to the music. And even when getting into the nitty-gritty of real life, they never give into the emo-type ranting or prepackaged anxiety. Instead they proceed with subtly. When you think they are going to be angry or sad in “Answer My Call,” you get one of the poppier songs on the album. Then it shifts to “Live the Life,” which goes away from the pop mentality for a more sinister sound (with a cello effect), but yet it the song can drive you to a dance floor. This shift in mood and approach, while constantly paying close attention to production details, is constantly occurring on the album.

The opening track, “Took the Fun,” is an intelligent way to open the album. It is ridiculously fun to listen to, especially when lead vocalist, Phil Etheridge, starts humming towards the ending. Nothing easier to remember than humming some darara-o’s. What follows are upbeat songs (though lyrically they can be a bit real life smacking-you-in-the-face). But there are definite moments that are uplifting, like in “Twit Twoo,” when Philip Etheridge sings “Rain falls, I ain’t complaining, helps to wash my blues away.” Or in “Williamsburg” – “So naïve to what the future holds still, they push on…” – ignorance is bliss, no? But even at the roughest moments, there is a sort of matter-of-fact that makes reality easy to digest: “She said I’m leaving and that’s the way it is…” (“Barney Rubble”) But it is sheer irony, just like the Smith and the Cure of the mid-80s, that as the lyrical realities are mind and soul’ numbing, you can still dance.

When I first listened to this album, a friend of mine told me that the album was just rehashed, gibberish garbage, pointing out some press on the matter. Well, with all due respect, I couldn’t disagree more. Okay, as I said, from first listen, there is something familiar about the music. That is the main reason I did not concentrate on the music here, because it is familiar. If you are looking for the next band to write ground-shaking, mind blowing, out-of-the-box music, move on and do not hold your breath. It is a rare, once in a generation thing to find a band/musician who can radically change music forever – a David Bowie is not born every day, and usually longevity will prove your influence on music. But what you get here is something that is horribly missing from music: sincerity. And though you can argue that the album is not commercially successful as the first album was, give it a break, it may be a sleeper hit, or it just may end up being one of the most endearing albums that will solidify a fan base, which is more important than a chart position. Two thumbs up, and make a trip to a music store or online where you can order the deluxe edition with the bonus CD with six tracks on it.

Track Listing:
1. Took The Fun
2. Barney Rubble
3. Twit Twoo
4. Put It On The Dancefloor
5. May I Suggest
6. Encouraging Sign
7. Got No Interest
8. Back Where We Started
9. Answer My Call
10. Live The Life
11. Williamsburg
12. Another Bus
13. Rainy Morning – Bonus Track
14. Elusive Soul – Bonus Track
15. Anglesey – Bonus Track
16. Changing Me – Bonus Track
17. Twit To Waltz – Bonus Track
18. Barney Rubble (Acoustic) – Bonus Track

Keep up with The Twang at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Barney Rubble” from their YouTube Channel: TheTwangTV.

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