Note: Below is an updated version of a review we first ran in August 2012, in honor of the album's official release this week on Autumn Tone Records.
Twin Peaks sound like a young band. That isn't a slight, nor is it a reference to their age or the length of time they've been playing together. Doe-eyed as they may be, it's their sound that's young. It's refreshing, bubbling over with reckless joy and seemingly boundless energy. I first caught Twin Peaks at The Whip in the summer of 2012 and, truth be told, they're the only band I remember from that night. Say what you will about my borderline alcoholism, the group completely stole the show and left me eager for more. When I first got a hold of Sunken, I was as excited as I was worried. Would the record capture the energy of their live performance? Would the album's production bury their melodies in a lo-fi haze? Was I fondly recalling their set because drunken basement shows are always fun, even if the bands suck?
Sometimes I worry a lot for absolutely no reason. This is one of those times.
The record begins with "Baby Blue," a smooth garage-jangle heavy on fuzz, but tight enough to sustain. The song's slightly stuttered riff unfolds into a charmingly lithe melody that ambles through the distortion with the urgency of a lakefront stroll. The rhythm section is appropriately subdued on the tune, relying on husky vocals to counter the brightness of the lead guitar. Those drums move from a controlled rumble to deliberate and splashy on "Natural Villain," where they snap and tumble against plumes of Buddy Holly-on-Vicodin croons. The jaunt only ceases to be casual at its conclusion, when the thrash picks up to match an almost pained lyric exclamation from charismatic singer Cadien Lake James. By the time the guitars melt down to silence, Sunken seems ready to take off.
"Fast Eddie" tears across the next two and a half minutes, a punky romp featuring vocals that bob between Iggy Pop and Bryan Ferry. Kicked off by Jack Dolan's rumbling, determined bass line, the song erupts into an elastic chorus that begs to be danced to. Buzz-saw rhythm guitars lift the lead's shimmering breedle to a plateau of sheer giddiness. Twin Peaks truly get it right on this track; each member performing his role to perfection. The result is a song that ought to be the anthem of the last day of school, or the moment you cast off your clothes before skinny dipping on a hot summer afternoon. "Out of Commission" and "Stand in the Sand" offer nice glimpses of the range of influences Twin Peaks summon up on Sunken. The former is a scuzzy, riotous mosher executed with the same glee that Black Lips have rested their laurels on, while "Sand" calls back to cool '60s pop tunes about girls and beaches.
What is perhaps most exciting about Sunken again comes back to youth. Twin Peaks sound like a confident band still exploring their own identity. As the record plays on you can hear the group reconciling their considerable pop smarts with their penchant for manic blasting. "Out of Commission," even at a minute and a half, is a sizzling overdose, akin to dumping twenty or so Pixy Stix into your mouth at once. The record loses a little steam with "Irene," whose mellow glimmer drifts pleasantly but never builds to anything truly captivating. That feeling is far more an exception than the rule with Sunken, and knowing that this is the first step in what will hopefully be a long journey is encouraging. If Twin Peaks keep making strides in channeling the magnetism of their live sets into their records, the future is bright. The boys have time on their side, plenty of talent, and more than a handful of moments on Sunken that suggest we won't have long to wait for a truly great follow up.
'Sunken' was released on July 9th by Autumn Tone records and is available for purchase on vinyl and download here. You can pick up a copy and see Twin Peaks live at their record release show Wednesday, July 24th at Schubas with Sister Crystals ($10, 9pm, 21+). Get tickets here and then check out the video for "Fast Eddie" below.
Twin Peaks - "Fast Eddie" from RYAN OHM ▲ on Vimeo.