This ‘Slim Twig’ article was written by Joseph Attlee, a GIGsoup contributor
A succession of bleeps and squeaks echo from the speaker, conjuring a mental image of spacecraft, giant computers and big red buttons. The sounds, simultaneously futuristic and retro, are of an imagined space-age, rendered quaint by our memories of ‘The Clangers’, and harked back to frequently by bands like Public Service Broadcasting and Daft Punk.
The effects give way to a slow, repetitive, distorted riff, and Thank You For Stickin’ With Twig – the latest album from the 26 year old Canadian ‘Pop Weirdo’ and self-proclaimed ‘Wah Wah Master’ Slim Twig – explodes into life.
Thank You For Stickin’ With Twig is a studio concept album, which seems to call for a nostalgic throwback to the psychadelic rock of the 60’s and 70’s. In this sense, it is easy to figure out pretty quickly where we’re being led: to a world drenched in discordant effects and crooked harmonies. She Stickin’ With Twig, a minute-long instrumental of twiddly classical synth and psychedelic overtones is haunted by the spirit of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, and entire tracks would sound at home on Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd.
However, to listen thoroughly to Thank You For Stickin’ With Twig is to waive the option of writing him off as a recycler of tired 60’s mores. You Got Me Goin… Out Of My Mind, a two part song which plays a tape-recorded vocal loop at warped half speed, scores points for raw experimentalism, and Fadeout Killer manages to weave a punchy piano hook (which could have been ripped directly from It’s the Hard Knock Life) with vocals reminiscent of early Bowie or The Flaming Lips.
Twig doesn’t restrict his experimental spirit to musical arrangement, and he displays moments of poetic prowess throughout.
Textiles on Mainstreet, its very title toying with that of the Rolling Stones album, channels a humorous miserablism, with the lyrics ‘I work a shift just up the street, cleaning semen off of seats, it’s a way for ends to meet.’ One can almost hear the echo of The Small Faces (‘Wouldn’t it be nice, to get on with your neighbours?’); their futile, highly British optimism reverberating forwards to a less innocent time.
Twig also sets out to add fresh perspective to the much romanticised ‘free love’ moment in music history.
On A Woman’s Touch (It’s No Coincidence), a song ‘sympathetic to the perspective of the Beatles’ wives,’ Twig implores us to rethink an era in which female perspectives were sidelined: ‘The wives became the enemies of screaming fans who never ceased, while holed up down at Abbey Road the boys were bearing rubber souls… history’s more than a man’s story, forever to be told.‘
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Gender issues are revisited in Fog of Sex (N.S.I.S.), one of the album’s funkiest and most musically conventional tracks. Twig, in a nasal, Scissor Sisters-style voice, revolts against gender boundaries: ‘Gender please, standardised questionnaire fee, simply mark which one you are, yet no option applies to me… Nothing is set in stone.’
Tongue in cheek or not, it is intriguing to hear of a young, male musician incorporating transgender sentiments into his work.
What the album is truly rich in, then, is ideas, and at times this weighs it down. Amidst all the sampling and layering, there are moments in which the trippiness and formal transgressiveness get in the way of cohesive structure. However, on the tracks in which such fringe elements marry well with mainstream forces, Twig is fantastic.
One such track is Stone Rollin’ (Musical Emotion), in which Twig, amid catchy harmonies, tinkering harpsichords and a cacophony of sampled brass, addresses doomed characters from Greek mythology: ‘Stone Rollin,’ in this case, refers to the proverbial boulder endlessly pushed up the hill by Sisyphus. But then there’s a bridge in which the meaning shifts: ‘Stones – as they’re thrown by sacks of skin and bones, as the strikes continue, don’t believe they know the right way home…’ Here, they are the missiles of class struggle.
It is unexpected, surprising moments like this which sum up this album. One hopes Slim Twig continues creating work to this standard, and that it won’t be too long before another Thank You for Stickin’ With Twig comes our way.
‘Thank You for Stickin’ With Twig’ is out now on DFA Records