On their debut full-length, Love It When I Feel Like This, The Twang draw from a wide stretch of Britain’s ‘dirty’ alternative, from baggy-dance to indie pub-rock to grime-rap. Shot to fame in the U.K. after being featured on British music magazine NME (coming in second in BBCNews.com’s ‘Sound of 2007’ poll), many have claimed that The Twang are the rebirth of the mid-nineties Manchester indie-dance scene (much like how fellow NME babies The Klaxons (QRO review) were dubbed ‘New Rave’). Others look to their signing with Midlands alt-rock label B-Unique (home of the bombastic Kaiser Chiefs (QRO review), and compare lead singer Phil Etheridge to such famed brit-bar-rock frontmen as Liam Gallagher (Oasis) and Tom Meighan (Kasabian). And yet others look to their work with snarky U.K. rapper, and fellow Brummie, Mike Skinner (a.k.a. The Streets), and Etheridge’s own thickly accented vocal stylings. Yet the boys from Birmingham are really a mix of all three, just maybe making them something more than a good copy – a good band with a good new sound.
Of these three strains, the baggy and pub-rock styles stand out as superior to the grime-rap, with pub-rock as the record’s main thread. Their two hit U.K. singles, “Wide Awake” and “Either Way”, are more in the vein of straight, big, indie-rock, being expansive, moving tracks that can really lift up the listener (“Awake”) or bring ‘em down (“Either”). “Either” follower “Push The Ghosts” adds a haunting echo effect to create a great chorus and very fitting verse, with its verse, in particular, superior to that of similar track, “Ice Cream Sundae”. The Twang are known for inspired shows (they actually had to change their name from ‘Neon Twang’, after it kept ‘inspiring’ club fights between their fans and punters), and while opener “Sundae” and the darker, harder closer “Cloudy Room” are noted live favorites, both lack that something extra to put them over the top on Love It.
For a band compared more than anything else to Mancunian baggy-dance idols like The Happy Mondays, The Twang really only feature dance-beat rave-rock as the primary sound on two tracks, the back-to-back “Loosely Dancing” and “Two Lovers”. Luckily, they’re both excellent, with the upbeat multi-beat “Loosely” adding a little country ‘twang’ to its rave-bop, while the sweeter “Lovers” is infectiously catchy. As great as those two are, however, it is questionable whether a whole album of it would be so fine. But a couple of songs? Wonderful (though just a couple more on Love It might have been even more so).
If their indie-brit-dance is underplayed, then their grimy-brit-rap is definitely overplayed. Etheridge’s thick Midlands accent is a little too much on the rock and dance tracks, but in those it fits among the powerful instrumentation. But when left alone, only with a beat, like on “The Neighbor”, “Reap What You Sow”, and “Don’t Wait Up”, his voice sounds overdone. Moreover, the rap itself, while decent and even at times fun on Love It, like with “Neighbor”, just isn’t that strong or memorable.
It could be said that The Twang take on a bit too much, trying to tie together all of Britain’s underground since the Soviet Union fell, but that’s really the wrong way to look at them. On Love It When I Feel Like This, they’re not trying to jump into any specific genre, but rather make one of their own, by making their own kind of music. The Twang are a little spread out, with a few places too explored, and a few places not explored enough, but they’re already well on their way to making the new sound of 2007.