Twerps, Twerps

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 08.30.12 in Reviews
Evoking the sound of early-’80s New Zealand

This Melbourne, Australia, quartet makes no secret of what inspires them: the “Dunedin sound” that came from a little cluster of bands in New Zealand in the early ’80s, especially the Clean, and the records the Australian group the Go-Betweens were making around the same time. As it happens, they’re incredibly good at evoking that moment — not only does singer/guitarist Marty Frawley’s voice sound a whole lot like the Clean’s David Kilgour, but they’ve got the rhythms and guitar tones and production touches down too. (The background vocals in the chaotic waltz “Don’t Be Suprised” — hollering “whoa-oh!” from what sounds like the next street over — are the kind of brilliant touch that nobody thinks of if they live too far from the Tasman Sea.) And when Julia MacFarlane takes over singing on “This Guy,” it’s all but functionally indistinguishable from a great lost Look Blue Go Purple song. Twerps’ lyrics are alternately psychedelic existentialism and low-key vehicles for vowel sounds (the way Frawley draws out the title of “Who Are You” is particularly terrific), but this is a band whose focus is the feel of their songs: the rush of a simple beat, the echoing depths of a strummed riff or casually plucked-out guitar lead.