Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Twin Peaks Bite Off The Wild Onion

Twin Peaks
While Sunken proved to be a promising debut from Twin Peaks, it is the band's sophomore album that turns heads and locks them onto any alternative rock playlist. Wild Onion is a dizzying mix of raucous garage rock and heavy pop with better songwriting and near perfect production.

Expect some punk influences too. While many alternative bands have been softening their sound, Twin Peaks has grown more confident and brash in the process. The 20-something four piece have clearly come a long way from dropping out of college and livening up the Chicago music scene.

Wild Onion by Twin Peaks packs in 16 tracks. 

Made up of Cadien Lake James (vocals), Clay Frankel (guitar), Jack Dolan (bass), and Connor Brodner (drums), the band originally came together in high school after James and Dolan played in several random bands together. Eventually they added Frankel and Brodner until they split for a short-lived stint in college.

The opening track off Wild Onion hits all the right notes of what happened to them. The psychedelically charged I Found A New Way celebrates coming of age with the awkwardness of mixing adolescence and a few totems associated with adulthood. The vibe is bright, the lyrics dark.


Of course, there could be a lot more going on in the song too. Twin Peaks is especially fond of metaphors and analogies, twisting songs like I Found A New Way into something else entirely.

Their more soulful Strawberry Smoothie, for example, spins some playful snow time into a blizzard that spirals out of control. The music matches the lyrics, with their energy whipped up into a frenzy of sludge and crunch.

With 16 tracks to add to their already buzzed-up set lists, it is pretty obvious that Twin Peaks wrote most of them to punch up their rollicking live shows. Wild Onion gives them plenty of material, albeit shorter tracks (with many clocking in under three minutes). Most of it plays out in two speeds, loud and frantic or slowed down and moody.

"The album deals with a lot of insecurities that arise when you’re growing up," says James, "It’s about adopting them and being vulnerable to let out the tunes. It ain’t ideal, but it’s sublime."

The tempo balance gives Twin Peaks a fresh mix during their live performances. If they sense the audience getting away from them, they can always break from the set list and punch everything up with lively numbers. If they already have them captivated, the band can dial down and sneak in something like Mirror Of Time, a near do-wop sixties number that climbs into your head and sticks.

The only time it doesn't work too well is when the band becomes too atmospheric. Tracks like Strange World shake off the expectant balance. Wispy is not the best sound for them. Fortunately, Fade Away brings everything back down to earth with a furiously punk drum beat and bass open.

It sets up the quirky Sweet Thing and Stranger World experimentation well enough while Telephone might push the pop too far. Sure, the track on its own it good. But the sheer sharpness and power of fan favorite Flavor seems to bury it.

Along with some of the tracks mentioned above, give Ordinary People, Hold On, and Mind Frame a listen. The latter lands right on the line despite being the album closer, but it still sounds good.

Wild Onion By Twin Peaks Bites 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

After a few more passes on the album, it almost felt like Twin Peaks is using Wild Onion to test out a few directions. Technically, they could take any of them and still come out on top even if our ears lean toward the more purposeful punch and buzz numbers alongside their slower psychedelic tracks. But then again, it doesn't really matter so much on an album with 16 tracks to mix any way you want.

You can pick up Wild Onion by Twin Peaks from Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes. The band might have recorded what some might call a double album, but the price point is less than most standard-sized offerings. For the vinyl edition of Wild Onion by Twin Peaks, visit Barnes & Noble. Look for Twin Peaks tour times on Facebook.