Album Reviews

The Twang – Jewellery Quarter

(B-Unique) UK release date: 3 August 2009


We all do silly things sometimes. We fall in love with the wrong person, tell our friends that we’ve met “the one” and then the reality kicks in that this person we’re going to stay with for life is… well, not really for us at all.

It’s similar to how vast swathes of the music press must feel about The Twang. Look back at some of their very early press cuttings from 2007 and you’ll see wildly enthusiastic praise heaped on the Brummie five-piece, comparing them to Oasis and even, mysteriously, The Stone Roses.

The reality was that debut album Love It When I Feel Like This was a horribly thrown-together mixture of laddish anthems, gormless lyrics and anonymous tunes. It was like Steve Coogan’s creation Paul Calf had decided to make a record aimed squarely at Kaiser Chiefs fans.

So now The Twang have reappeared, clutching a second album and bellowing “remember us?!”. And this time round, the reaction seems to be a embarrassed shuffle of feet and a collectively vague nod before rushing off to flirt madly with the latest hip new kids on the block. Or Wild Beasts, as they’re known.

Which is a bit of a shame, because Jewellery Quarter isn’t actually that bad. It’s an improvement on Love It When I Feel Like This, although that may be the actual dictionary definition of ‘damning with faint praise’. There’s definitely a more polished feel to the record, and the yobby, laddish element of the debut has been replaced by a surprisingly tender heart.

Barney Rubble (yes, it’s really called that) has a Caribbean-style backdrop of steel drums and cowbells, which carries the song along nicely. Singer Phil Etheridge still can’t sing in any classical definition of the word, but there’s a certain wistful vulnerability there which does occasionally tug at the heartstrings.

And every now and again, they produce a song which gives credence to the initial hype that first accompanied them. On the last album it was Either Way; this time it’s Encouraging Sign, a lovestruck jangly shuffle with disarmingly romantic lyrics (“I would quickstep over the rooftops to get to your house”).

Answer My Call is also pleasingly bruised and fragile, which is all the more effective for coming from men who look like they could quite easily sink 15 pints of real ale every night. Yet far too often Jewellery Quarter dips not so much a toe into the pool of mediocrity, but rolls up its trousers and goes for a very long paddle.

It’s the lyrics mainly – when they’re not constructing songs entirely of cliches (various talk about living the life you love and loving the life you live, sending messages through the stars, etc etc), they seem to be forever singing lines that you have to rewind to ensure you’ve heard them correctly – witness Twit Twoo’s “all the birds are whistling twit twoo” and the otherwise excellent Encouraging Sign’s “all the perfume that you wear has a tendency to make me feel slightly eww”.

And, although it’s akin to being presented with an air rifle, some fish and a barrel, let’s ponder the irony of lyrics such as “it’s this repetitive nonsense that brings her down”, “I suggest you go away and think about what you’ve done” and song titles such as Got No Interest. Lazy reviewing maybe, but sadly unavoidable.

Also, as with the debut album, the songs here aren’t strong enough to stand up to repeated listening. Although everything’s catchy enough, tracks like the cringe-inducing Put In On The Dancefloor and the cliche-ridden Live Your Life make the album drag slowly by. Indeed, by the end of the record, there’s the distinct impression that the band have run out of ideas, especially compared to the self-confident fizz of earlier numbers like Barney Rubble.

Ultimately though, The Twang aren’t a band who are going to be particularly bothered by reviews. They have their target audience, who will no doubt be delighted by Jewellery Quarter. So, if plodding indie-by-numbers with the odd nice tune thrown in is your bag, jump right in. Those seeking a bit more invention may care to look elsewhere.


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More on The Twang
The Twang – Neontwang
The Twang – 10:20
The Twang – Jewellery Quarter
The Twang @ Academy, Birmingham
The Twang – Love It When I Feel Like This