“Drowner,” the new album from Twin Berlin, is an aggressive and honest 10-song collection with extremely apparent classic influences.
By “classic influences,” I basically just mean Nirvana. Cobain’s growl has a new channel in Matt Lopez’s dirty and emotional vocals, and his skill at basic pop songwriting, hidden under heaps of overdrive and attitude, is equally evident in Twin Berlin’s songs. Opening track “Stay Clean” shows the influence within about four seconds, with a riff-based verse, snarling vocal melody, and heavy drums all leading into a hard but catchy chorus. Even the clean guitar strums after the first chorus sound like Cobain’s clean playing.
The Nirvana influence is fantastic; Twin Berlin is by no means unoriginal, and whatever they’ve picked up from the Pacific Northwest has enhanced their sound, not overwhelmed it. Lopez, bassist Sean O’Neil and drummer Peter Landi write appealing, accessible songs with lyrical themes untethered to metaphor and imagery: “Guess I fucked up. I hated high school. It never made sense when teachers were so cruel.”
Their simple rhythmic breaks and energetic playing always serve the song. You won’t find two-minute guitar and drum solos in this album, but that’s not to say that’s due to a lack of instrumental proficiency. Really what I’m getting at is that these guys are tasteful players and seem to prefer to write a great song than show off.
My favourite track is #4 “Hey Ma,” which has great examples of the instrumental restraint I described, but still builds into a perfectly emotive guitar solo and a section of hair-raising screams from Lopez.
Dry musical dissection and analysis now mercifully complete, I can talk about why I like this album.
It’s just fucking cool, man. I haven’t heard an album that has this kind of old-school swagger in a long time. It’s the kind of cool that one guy in high school had – even with a few pimples and a lanky adolescent body, he was everyone’s friend and no one ever wanted to fuck with him. I think it stems from self-confidence, which this album is bursting with. None of the songs are pristinely recorded, and it’s far from sounding pretty. It lurches and mumbles and burps all the way through its ten songs, but it’s honest and has no air of pretentiousness. It’s self-confident in a quiet, dignified way. To personify it - at a party, this album would not be the guy talking about his upcoming shows and handing out business cards. This album would be on the porch, lighting up and passing around a joint, with a can of beer and a leather jacket.
Ultimately, which one would you want to be friends with?
1. Stay Clean
2. Killin' My Friends
3. Nate's Volvo
4. Hey Ma
6. My Baby
8. Longing For The Sun
9. Turning On My Radio
10. Waiting For A Change