Seconds after Twin Peaks‘ sophomore album begins, you know this band can put on a wild live show. It comes at you hard, raw. The tracks have high energy, penetration, and confidence. The recording quality sounds slightly fuzzy with a warehouse quality — solid, but you sense that it’s impossible to truly “record” this band, they have to be experienced live.
Hailing from Chicago, the almost-legal members of Twin Peaks have youth. For the most part, they don’t try and run away from this, but embrace it. The sounds have a carefree, effortless quality that only a group of barely-twenty years old musicians can capture. The album takes nonsensical “artsy” instrumental detours — the kind of weird flourish you might’ve found fascinating at age twenty. When the album fails, it even fails in a youthful way — over-ambition. For the most part, though, this youthfulness lends the album charm.
One song truly transcends, “Making Breakfast“. An album needs a transcendent track or two to hook listeners, and “Making Breakfast” succeeds in that task. The song has looseness and shows great musical sensibility. The chorus features a bizarre harmony where one of the vocals evokes a talky Lou Reed and the other has the sweet coarse energy of Mick Jagger. Importantly, this inspiration doesn’t slip into mimicry and Twin Peaks successfully channels their influences without losing themselves. In the digital age, it’s refreshing to hear a band with some of the old magic.
The album has certain flaws and moments where it misses. A fine line separates inspiration from imitation, and Twin Peaks crosses both sides of the line. Wild Onion shows the band taking on many of the giants of the sixties — Lou Reed, Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys. At times this experimentation seems forced and showy — “Look what we can do”. The band’s diversity is admirable, but it often feels intellectually planned and inorganic. Thus, the album sometimes feels inauthentic. Better would be diversity that comes naturally, unplanned, and unforced.
Nonetheless, it’s helpful to remember their youth. The misses seem minor in that backdrop. Twin Peaks has emerged as a hot-button band, and this album does more than enough to maintain their ascendance.