I made the trek to Rough Trade for the second time this week, this time to catch Melbourne’s Twerps. In terms of the dictionary definition, the only twerps were those not watching the band on Friday night.
King Cyst were originally on the bill but were replaced with Pale Lights, and having seen the former struggle through a set at Brooklyn Night Bazaar recently, I wasn’t surprised (the guitarist/singer had broken his finger and couldn’t really play). I’ve seen Pale Lights a few times, they have a pleasant sound that was appropriate with the overall bill; the guitars jangle with a notable Go-Betweens influence. However, their awkwardness on stage is to their detriment, as sympathetic as I am about such things. Bands like Teenage Fanclub, for example, can get away with being statues because they play brilliant pop tunes, Pales Lights have a bit of work to do in that regard to say the least, but their songs are nice, though Philip Sutton reading his lyrics off a sheet seems to bemuse some in the crowd.
Ultimate Painting made the trip over from the UK and feature James Hoare of Veronica Falls, whose second album in particular, Waiting for Something to Happen, cannot be recommended enough. Ultimate Painting veer more towards The Velvet Underground with their sound, which you think sounds like a clever comparison until you find out everyone says the same thing. I saw the band back in October during CMJ and have to confess, found them terribly dull, but almost half-a-year longer of being a band has done them the world of good. They were tighter and played with much more vigour as they delivered a highly enjoyable set. Their final song, a 10-minute guitar workout, was a highlight.
Australian bands always seem to draw a crowd, although given how bad New Yorkers seem to be at gauging accents between the two countries, I wondered if they might have thought Ultimate Painting were from Australia and Twerps were from England… but Rough Trade is possibly even sold out by the time the band take to the stage.
Formed in 2008, after releasing an album and EP, it was no surprise to see them land on Merge records in the US, given that they have bands like The Clean on their roster, whom one imagines are more than adored by tonight’s headliners. Songs like Shoulders and Stranger serve as a reminder that spring is on the way, and while the band have left warmer climes behind (albeit en route to Texas), their infectious tunes feel like hard-won sunshine to these ears.
Whether playing guitar or keyboards, Julia McFarlane fleshes out the band’s sound with aplomb, her playing is often understated but adds texture that elevates the band beyond just another jangle-pop group.
The band’s second album, Range Anxiety, is out on Merge Records now, and as Martin Frawley sings on Back To You; “Somebody out there is doin’ better than me”, but Twerps seem to be having an incredible time right now and it’s hard not to see them reach even dizzier heights.