The Australian rock band's second album is a reverential throwback to the glory days of iconoclastic jangle pop. It's nostalgia done right.
Many people roll their eyes at the dated ethos of ‘80s and ‘90s indie rock these days: the heart-on-your sleeve emotionality, the shambling, sloppy guitar work, the blatant disregard for simple-to-follow song structure. Alternative rock has grown up in the last 20 years, sure, but that doesn’t mean nostalgia doesn’t have an increasingly warm place in every music fan’s heart. That’s the territory of Australian band Twerps, who almost seem to wield nostalgia as a weapon, and their new record Range Anxiety. We’ve heard albums like Range Anxiety before, from similar retro-rock appropriators like Girls and Yuck. Twerps fit beautifully into that canon -- even without the melodramatic grace of the former or the fuzzy aggression of the latter -- by sheer commitment to the sound of bygone eras of alt-rock. Let it never be said that indie rock is dead with bands like Twerps around.
Range Anxiety is a reverential throwback to the glory days of iconoclastic jangle pop, full of tangled guitar patterns, laid-back melodies and slacker poetry. All you need to hear is the sincerity in the love songs like “I Don’t Mind” (“Let’s put the puzzle back together our way / It’s yours and mine”) and the panicked energy behind tracks like “Cheap Education” to feel that the style is alive and well, just rarely treated with such genuine affection as on Range Anxiety. Twerps go for stamina on the album, alternating between clean and dirty guitar sounds, male and female singers, rollicking pop tracks and emotional ballads. They deftly nail the particulars of each mood, always drawing out the purest essence of each style. For those who need tangible authenticity in their indie rock, Twerps have made a record for you.
That commitment naturally results in the by-product of the less revered qualities of their influences. The band occasionally give way a looseness that can sometimes come off limp, for example, as on the solemn “Shoulders”, but even this is followed-up by the tight and controlled “Simple Feelings” and the similarly slow and weighty -- but significantly more focused -- “Adrenaline” and “Fern Murderers”, so it’s more of an anomaly than a fundamental problem. If the listener looks back on this particular brand of college rock with reverence, then they’ll already be on board for everything that it entails, readily accepting of all the quirks and missed marks. Plus, Twerps know how to make up for lost time, and for as much mileage as they can get out of brittle power pop and shaky guitar ballads, a misstep or two is expected.
No, not every song is a winner, and what doesn’t work has a tendency to suck the momentum out of the album, but when the elements lock into step, it’s stunning. Sure, there are thousands of indie rock bands still devoted to the guitar pop sound of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but few sound as full and warm as Twerps when they’re in their stride. Range Anxiety is an album from another era, unlike those of other college rock followers namely because Twerps understand where they come from. They’re not caricatures; they’re all substance. That’s the proper way to do nostalgia.