Twerps, Songs, Jonny Telafone @ Goodgod, Sydney (11/08/12)
Jonny Telafone kicked things off with his kid on overload performance that rivals Donny Benet for its tongue in cheek pastiche, kitchen sink electro and synth pop cheesiness. There is no doubt that Telafone is a great performer even if he is just singing over Suicide-tinged backing tracks from his laptop but with song titles like Make Your Pussy Cum and his exaggerated gyrations and gestures it is hard to keep a straight face. You’d think this would have a limited shelf life but Telafone has been at it for a few years now and ultimately it is highly entertaining stuff.
Songs have been settled in their new line-up for a while now and with bassist/singer Ela Stiles contributing more to the songwriting their sound has continued to shape-shift and incorporate different styles. Most of the songs they played have been written post the release of their debut album and show an increased focus on rhythm and groove. The jangly guitar of their earlier work has been absorbed into the more muscular framework of the newer material with the one constant still being the insistent krautrock repetition that permeates much of their sound. The balance between the sweet vocals of Stiles and Max Doyle’s higher pitched, vowel-chewing style is now finely balanced with both filling the role of front-person. Sonically they had it on a string, grinding a groove deep into the ears of the audience before spraying discordant noise across the music and then reining it all back in with choreographed precision. Songs continue to evolve, expand and refine their art and hopefully they’ll grace us with that second album sooner rather than later.
Twerps are one of the most unassuming bands around both visually and in terms of their familiar and reassuring jangly guitar pop. They appeared on stage and seamlessly transformed their setup/soundcheck into their set proper. The sell-out audience rewarded the quartet for their stellar last twelve months with exuberant applause and crowded in close around the front and side of the stage making the performance feel even more intimate and communal. We got most of the album plus a new track that sounded instantly the match of even the strongest songs they’ve released to date.
The unassuming nature of Twerps extends to the subject matter of their songs that take in love, boredom, dreams and the everyday concerns of living and live they nail that laconic melancholia as effortlessly as they do on their recordings. Martin Frawley sings nearly all the songs but when guitarist Julia McFarlane steps up to take lead vocal on excellent This Guy it opens up their sound immensely and it is a shame her voice isn’t used more extensively. Frawley’s voice is an exposed and often fragile instrument on stage but it works perfectly with their sound. They always seemed to be playing just behind the beat giving the songs that worn and gloriously lazy sound. Who Are You drifted along gorgeously, generating head swaying aplenty while Coast To Coast amplified the debt they owe to the best of the Flying Nun Records stable. The defining moment came with the and its sun-dazed psychedelia of Dreamin and bassist Rick Milovanovic’s reliably solid, melodic playing.
Twerps departed the Goodgod stage with as little fuss as they arrived and it felt right that there was no encore. This is a band who played their set, entertained the audience and by the look of it got a lot of quiet satisfaction from playing their wonderfully wandering tunes.