Whisper it, but The Twang are changing.
Perhaps they had to. The Birmingham band were signed during the Great '00s Indie Boom. Handed a huge recording contract when barely out of school, their 2007 debut album ‘Love It When I Feel Like This’ smashed into the chart at number three.
Which is where the trouble began. Enormous hype led to over-exposure, and the backlash began in earnest when album two, ‘Jewellery Quarter’ (2009), scraped into the top 20. A third album, ’10:20’, followed in 2012. Not heard it? Perhaps because it reached a chart high of 52.
A change, then, could do them good. Retreating to east London, The Twang hooked up with Rory Attwell (go-to man for Veronica Falls, Cheatahs and more) to discuss a new direction. Gathered on ‘NEONTWANG’, the results are – if not completely successful – at least indicative that second chances are worth pursuing.
Let’s start with the positives. This is a brave return, one that flies largely in the face of fan expectations. Attwell’s production is typically raw, while tracks such as opener ‘City Lights’ or the bracing ‘Happy Families’ have a certain swagger, a certain taste of dissent. The bass-led ‘Almost Anything’ sounds like ‘Movement’-era New Order, while ‘New Love’ has a touching psychedelic edge.
Yet problems remain. Those lyrics, for a start. Always the bane of critics, The Twang still thrive on daft couplets, on wordplay which doesn’t so much fail to get off the ground as collapse on the runway. Too much of ‘NEONTWANG’ feels slight, as if the band is still beset by identity issues, still confused by the prospect of what they could be.
The transition, then, is still under way. When it works, ‘NEONTWANG’ is a worthy return, the sound of a band taking risks in ways their detractors could never fathom. Where they go from here is up to them – at least they’ve earned that right.
Words: Robin Murray
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