Today, Chicago’s 5 piece Twin Peaks return with their third full LP, a thirteen song rock release of charming pop swingers, oozing in a range of influences and highlighting a sense of growth in their precision and style, even if not in maturity, in the band known for a raucous and untameable approach to their previous efforts. Long gone is the crashing flow of fuzzy guitar noise and husky vocals that brought their instant excitement to life, from their notoriously wild house gigs to their acid washed debut; and in Down In Heaven the band break into a sound that can only be described as melodic, with their previously loose-ended sound becoming much further well rounded.
Opener Walk To The One You Love is a punchy pop song reminiscent of early Beatles, with noticeably smoother and cooler vocals from Cadien James lifted by the screeching harmonies and the occasional “ooh” or “la”. The song flows in a way that makes you think of a leisurely stroll in the sun with the occasion gust of fresh air; crunching and tapping with every second, but with a light undertone that was previously unheard of in Twin Peaks’ discography. In this track and the loved up Wanted You, the range of instruments used also hints at a sense of exploration and personal horizon breaking – brought together with the lazy drift of these songs, and with the aid of mixer John Agnello, whose previous work with the likes of Kurt Vile and Dinosaur Jr. made him a natural fit for the band at their current stage.
High points of the album show the band’s more confident changes in style and genre, with the sleepy and lovingly sung Cold Lips that contradicts the lyric “You oughta get yourself a shiny gold medal / For being the coldest bitch I know” with a much colder sentiment, and a punchy chorus threatening “You can live how you want, if you don’t mind living alone”. Similarly, Butterfly’s fuzzy crash of the pure energy from which Twin Peaks found their success gives opportunity for a dance amongst the generally more dreamy or psychedelic, slower paced songs otherwise. Final track Have You Ever shows the band reverting to their garage roots in a crash of buzzing basslines and twinkling harmonies that build into a chaos of the thrashing final chorus of the album, running around your mind long after the song brings Down In Heaven to its end.
Besides the energetic encompassing of a new sound on this LP, especially in variation from their Chicago fuelled garage roots, I can’t help consider that this significant change in Twin Peaks’ sound and attempt at a more serious release was a little premature in their evolution. Guitarist Clay Frankel says he doesn’t “Know yet what kind of band we [Twin Peaks] are”, and despite some of the songs on this LP pushing towards the band’s strongest yet, throughout the album this uncertainty in genre and sound definitely shows in its lacking strength – and if anything, just builds the anticipation towards where they might go next.
Twin Peaks’ Down In Heaven is out now on Communion and Caroline International.