Twin Peaks - Down In Heaven

by Camilo Oswald

Personally, I think the soul of Chicago lo-fi hellraisers Twin Peaks could be captured in just one song: Sweet Thing – a precious two-minute, three-chorded ballad, accessorised in asinine rhymes and dismissing all its inherent soppiness with unlawful levels of swagger. Having exploded onto the American garage scene in 2014 with their raucous sophomore record Wild Onion, Twin Peaks became an unlikely cult band with an even unlikelier viral hit – the music video for Making Breakfast (admittedly, the song soundtracked many a scrambled egg for me in first year). Now, judging by their first string of singles, their joviality is still very much apparent, albeit cast through a different lens – that of downtrodden heartbreak.

The resigned tone is set from lead single and album opener Walk To The One You Love, a traditional American rock-and-roller, complete with piano, seemingly suggesting some restraint in the hell-for-leather fuzz department. Wanted You keeps the defeatism alive and reveals the emotional duality of the band, encapsulated by the dynamic relationship between singers Clay Frankel and Cadien Lake James – where a mopey, sobbing narrative reminiscent of Girls’ Christopher Owens is met with a Jagger-esque emotive howl that makes getting your girlfriend stolen sound like the most fun you’ll ever have. Follow onto My Boys and it feels as though the titles and their curious order are trying to tell us something…

It’s as though the youngsters have started to experience love in between massive tours, failed miserably and resorted to their friends and their music to pull through. Butterfly would seem to tell a similar tale with lyrics such as “It’s such a butterfly feeling to have you for a friend,” were it not for Frankel dismissing it in an interview as a “doomy dance song that quite honestly could be summed up as ‘let’s have sex because we’re all going to die’”, but one should read between the lines. Onto exhibit B: You Don’t sports the lyrics “I don’t care about parents or friends, if you don’t/ but I don’t wanna be yours/ I wanna be bored of you, if you’re bored of me” and Cold Lips wears the mantra of “you can live how you want!/if you don’t mind living alone…” Conclusion: somebody got dumped.

If my textual analysis is starting to feel over-scrupulous, it is only because Twin Peaks seem to have developed poignant lyricism out of thin air (perhaps this is partly due to the fact this is the first time their singing is actually discernible, thanks to more sophisticated production). Their words now carry weight – could it be the weight of maturity?

The dour tone changes at the album centrepoint Heavenly Showers, the sound of acceptance. “I don’t feel too sad/ but I sure could/but I don’t, and you better bet that I won’t”; the metaphor runs along the lines of waking up from the hangover of love, taking a revitalising and much needed shower whilst singing the joyous song of moving on. Good on ya, mate.

Now that’s sorted, on the rest of the album we hear the Twin Peaks of old are back in town and they’re gagging for trouble. Keep It Together is a lusty, groovy number which could be equal parts meeting for a drug deal or a midnight salacious rendezvous. Either way, lovelorn is out; hedonism is back in and Lolisa and Getting Better contribute to this new world order (notice the song titles!).

One of the most accomplished songs on the album is Holding Roses, where they revisit romantic dismay but with different energy – melodically and thematically, it is the stuff of all the great breakup songs. Alas, Stain is a sorry declaration of unrequited love and upsets the smooth thematic transition and the ‘character development’, as it were. Notwithstanding, in light of the sheer quality of the album, I’m willing to forgive one last relapse into moaning, loser territory.

It seems unimaginable to say this but Twin Peaks have released an album built around a clear storytelling arch – most unexpected from a band who formerly regarded album releases merely a collection of noisy songs about having fun, held together by glue and staples in true DIY fashion. They have forgone the temptation of drowning themselves in ‘lo-fi’ and sacrificed their garage-rock scorched earth approach for the sake of more carefully crafted songwriting and, in turn, a record with more heart and purpose.

Finally, brilliant album closer Have You Ever? clears the romantic air and blows the cobwebs in a statement of defiance, camaraderie, and retrospective self-mockery, howling “I’ve been lonely too!” That too, ultimately captures the spirit and wisdom of the band: there is always a place for riotous escapist fun in the face of adversity. Or as they so eloquently put it: “let’s have sex because we’re all going to die”.