Who: The Twerps
Where: The Shadow Electric Bandroom, Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne
When: August 29th 2014
With it nearly being September it’s odd to think that this was the Twerps’ first hometown show of 2014. Especially considering they always attract large numbers. Yet at the same time I can understand it, having witnessed them play three Melbourne gigs in the space of seven months last year, which included a rather disjointed appearance at Chapter Music’s birthday bash last November. Be that as it may, the locals still turned out in such force that this Underlay EP launch, was sold out well in advance.
Considering I only attended the launch of the Shadow Electric bandroom two weeks ago, its fair to say alot more jostling for space was required for this performance, than on that night. Every available nook and cranny was seemingly taken up by the time the Twerps meandered onto the stage. With their new Underlay EP, the band have proved they are prepared to shift away from their pure indie pop driven sensibilities, and explore into territories unknown.
They opened with “Consecutive Seasons”, from the EP, where Alex McFarlane’s drumming stole the show. It’s a tune that highlights how the Twerps have lost none of that songwriting craft that makes them so utterly infectious, even if the tune does include the line; “I don’t wanna sing Dreamin’/it’s lost every single meaning/I’m so damn sick of it all”. With “Dreamin”’ being one of the standout and much loved tracks from their 2011 debut album, this line apparently emphasises that the foursome, or Frawley at least, doesn’t want that song to be the sole reference point for the band.
The well known drumbeat intro of “This Guy”, heralded more life from the tightly sandwiched crowd, as Julia McFarlane ventured toward the mic. The band for all their worth, are well capable of writing a catchy number, so much so they can make even the most ardent Melbournian hipster shake a leg, however they themselves don’t portray a band who like putting much of an effort in the ‘lively on stage’ stakes. It doesn’t seem to matter whether its Frawley or McFarlane on vocals, both rarely move or change facial expression when at the mic, while deadpan bassist Rick Milovanovic seemed content to just trudge along. Thankfully drummer Alex McFarlane can be relied on to shake you out of any possible day dreaming scenario one may find themselves in at times.
The overly catchy “Heavy Hands”, got the heads bopping along in the audience, due to it’s irresistible guitar hooks and driven bass lines. The jangly sounding “He’s in Stock”, from the 2012 “Work it Out” 7″ followed, though Frawley’s vocals were too low in the mix on more than one occasion, which mattered little, as I was constantly drawn to the thumping drums and snappy guitar licks. “Shoulders”, was the first of three new tracks aired throughout the course of the 60 minute set, was sung by McFarlane, contained an instrumental segment that appealed more to me than the actual vocals.
Frawley’s mic output again suffered during the slow and meandrous feeling “California Clay”, but this is also the case on Underlay itself, so perhaps it wasn’t a technical fault as such. There was more of an upbeat 60’s vibe to the short and sharp “Conditional Report”, which definitely brought the energy levels up a notch. Forthcoming album tracks; “Adrenaline” and “Feelings”, which featured Julia and Marty on lead vocals respectively, showed that the Twerps are having fun experimenting with their sound.
They finished up with a hat trick of tunes from the new EP; “Raft”, “Hypocrite” and “Wait ’til You Smile”. The former, raised the loudest cheer of the night, included drummer McFarlane shaking the life out of a tambourine, whenever he wasn’t pounding the drums like a mad man, something which tied in perfectly with the song’s duelling guitars.
“Wait ’til You Smile” is a track that seems to be stuck in some sort of middle ground, between what the Twerps’ sound is renowned for, versus what they’re striving to perhaps move onto. Frawley’s vocals aren’t the strongest here, but the performance was saved due to its hypnotic instrumental, which at the very end was reminiscent of a barn storming steam engine slowing down, as it approached the platform.
Yes it was a vastly improved performance compared to that of last November, and yes they’ve written some impressive new tunes, but you’d be forgiven if you thought something was still missing from that celebrated Twerps formula in 2014.
Set List: “Consecutive Seasons”, “This Guy”, “Heavy Hands”, “He’s In Stock”, “Shoulders” (new), “California Clay”, “Conditional Reprt”, “Dreamin'”, “Adrenaline” (new), “Feelings” (new), “Raft”, “Hypocrite” and “Wait ’til You Smile”