Twerps‘ second album is finally out next week. Its title, Range Anxiety, presumably refers to ‘second album syndrome’ – the fear, surely lurking in the heart of every buzz band, of not being able to live up to the promise of their debut record. This is something which Twerps frontman Martin Frawley openly admits to in interviews, and which he seems to be deflecting in the album trailers for Range Anxiety that depict him as some kind of crank auteur (and, later, a washed-up alcoholic).
The band’s made a few changes since their last LP. The talented Alex MacFarlane has been recruited on drums and has made his presence felt – the shift towards crisper tempos and a rather twee eccentricity on the Underlay EP and recent single ‘Back to You’ smacks of MacFarlane’s other band, the Stevens. Also, as has been evident in their live sets for a while now, Julia McFarlane is sharing more of the Twerps’ songwriting burden, having helmed two tracks on Underlay, as well as ‘Shoulders’, the second single from the forthcoming full-length.
Screwing with the formula is almost certainly a healthy thing for a band to do, but it’s a gamble. For Twerps, shared songwriting may have diffused some of the pressure of of making that difficult second album. Frawley has said he was left feeling exposed by the personal material on 2011’s Twerps, and he speculated last year that the new album would be ‘more of a joint record, less of one dude whinging about everything’. In fact, collaboration follows the shape the band’s life is now taking, with Frawley and McFarlane en route to getting hitched.
But while McFarlane is a decent lyricist, and her nimble guitar playing has provided the band with at least half its personality and pep since the beginning, her writing style feels unnaturally heavy alongside Frawley’s easygoing pop. She tends towards vocal melodies with a nursery-rhyme simplicity – albeit more of a nod to traditional folk than to Peter Combe – and with a sometimes grating circularity.
So after McFarlane’s anachronistic sounding ‘Shoulders’ (and the enjoyable but kind of dinky lead single, ‘Back to You’) it’s a relief to hear a track from Range Anxiety that genuinely lives up to the hype. ‘I Don’t Mind’ starts out lazily enough, swapping between Frawley’s slow drawl and McFarlane’s skipping guitar, with only the rumbling rhythm section and a hint of feedback to presage the thrill of the song’s frenetic final bars. As the tempo increases and layers build, the track culminates in a sense of urgency that utterly belies lines like ‘I don’t mind if you go / I don’t mind if you stay … let’s waste away … I don’t mind’.
Range Anxiety is out next Friday, 23 January, through Chapter. Twerps will play a backyard set at Polyester Records on the day, with limited tickets going to the first 40 people to preorder the album at the store or through the Polyester website.
They’ll be playing the new tracks for you again the very next day at the massive Sugar Mountain festival. Limited tickets are still available here.
Twerps’ Australian dates:
Jan 24 Melbourne – Sugar Mountain
Jan 28 Brisbane – The Tivoli *
Jan 29 Sydney - Enmore *
Feb 1 Melbourne - Palais *
Feb 3 Perth – Astor Theatre *
Feb 27 Melbourne - Melbourne Zoo #
March 7-9 Meredith – Golden Plains
* with Belle and Sebastian
# with Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
You can see the band’s US tour dates here.