Twisted Wheel have been making a lot of noise over the last year. The Oldham trio’s high-octane commercial spin on post-punk rock has supported the likes of The View and The Enemy on tour (with Oasis and Paul Weller to come this summer).
Does the release of their debut self-titled album justify all the fuss? The answer is definitely yes if you like no-nonsense guitar-based lad-rock (see the names above) with big tunes and singalong choruses. If you are looking for something more original with shades of subtlety, then you will be disappointed.
As perhaps suggested by their major record label Columbia and their commercially successful American producer Dave Sardy, Twisted Wheel may have the snarling aggression of punk but their sound is very much on the mainstream side of ‘indie’. And though they are named after the legendary Manchester Northern Soul club, but they are closer to pub rock than Motown.
The songs are strong, if lacking variation. Opener Lucy The Castle sets the tone with its main loud rock’n’roll/boogie woogie riff pierced by a short punky guitar solo and backed by a driving rhythm: a defiant attitude destined to launch a thousand pints of lager at their gigs, which they will soon be headlining. First single She’s A Weapon carries on the swaggering posture in a blistering dose of pure adrenaline which leaves your heart pumping.
Current single We Are Us moves away from women to politics, as the band enter the territory of the early The Jam or The Enemy with lines like “You will never stop us/Cos you are you and we are us”: us and them class consciousness is alive and kicking it seems. Lyrically Oh What Have You Done also hypes up the aggro – “People try to destroy me/And they don’t even know me” – while musically it could have come from 1977.
Conflict continues in the aptly named Strife, in which a girl “shaves her leg with a potato peeler” (ouch!), followed by the catchy One Night On The Streets with its rock-solid groove, the slightly skiffly Let Them Have It All and the punchy Bad Candy driven by staccato chords, one of the album’s best tracks.
You Stole The Sun is rather different, a somewhat surreal story about… someone stealing the sun – it doesn’t seem to serve any symbolic purpose. Bouncing Bomb is an acoustic-guitar-led song with a folksy protest feel, and What’s Your Name also turns down the noise a notch to bring about a relatively mellow conclusion to a record full of sound and fury.
Frontman Jonny Brown’s sneering vocal style may be limited in range but its in yer face directness makes a big impact, and his guitar playing is equally raucous, while bassist Rick Lees and drummer Adam Clarke form a tight rhythm section. Twisted Wheel have made an impressively rousing debut, even if it holds no surprises. The test will be whether they are able to develop when the time comes to make the difficult second album.