Some people call it pop-punk, but that’s too narrow. Others refer to it as power-pop, but the sugar level of the material at hand is just low enough to evade such a categorization. You can go with post-hardcore or new-prog or alternative-metal, but to be fair, those labels might scare away would-be fans who prefer not to over-think the bands they adore.
Whatever you want to call it doesn’t really matter because you recognize it whenever you hear it. Angular guitar parts that crunch as much as they punch. Odd time-signatures that weave in and out of drum fills with precision and ease. Soaring, clean vocals that would risk being overrun by backing screams, had the harmonies been written, say, eight years ago. Warped Tour favorites. Alternative Press cover boys. Think Between the Buried and Me. Or Boys Night Out’s brilliant 2005 set “Trainwreck.” Shoot. You can even throw in a dash of semi-local-boys-done-good All Time Low.
It’s the sound of angst and metal and rock and all those things that make 115-pound teenage boys with girls’ haircuts slam-dance their way through mosh pits that would have a hard time existing at a Slipknot concert. And in the case of local quartet Twin Radio, it’s a sound they have studied and mastered on their debut full-length, “The Coast of Indigo.” From front to back, these 10 songs are shinier than the insides of a jewelry store’s walk-in safe, a sonic reminder that weirdly pigeonholed bands like Coheed And Cambria deserve to be considered among rock fans’ most admired groups, even if those fans aren’t quite sure where to file them in their heads.
What makes this set so stunning is the band’s lean toward “pop,” and not “post.” These songs aren’t as obscure as something from Time Columns and nor are they as ambitious as Drop Electric’s 2013 record “Waking Up to the Fire.” But that doesn’t mean these things don’t have girth. Single “Still Burning” announces itself instantly with a funk-metal groove before exploding into a driving hook that is highlighted with Jered Youngbar’s post-chorus subtle shredding. Better yet is the way the vocals open up like a clouded sky giving way to the day’s first sunlight. Yeah, the end product might sound simple, but the production of it isn’t nearly that easy.
Case in point: “Albatross.” Anchored by what appears to be an aggressively swaying 6/8 waltz, drummer Jacob Dawson takes that predictable feel and runs enough variations on it that you can’t even figure out how to tap your foot once verse two comes around. It’s thrilling, how easily the guy fades into patterns that could quickly lead to car crashes in lesser bands. Here, though, it all makes sense, it all fits flawlessly. Add in the release of a high-pitched vocal yelp, and what you have is the most musically impressive three minutes and 44 seconds the record offers.
Yet even with Highland’s mild Claudio Sanchez influences and Dawson’s imaginative stick-man prowess, neither of them overshadow the most intriguing element of Twin Radio, and that’s their keyboard. Why? Because they aren’t used in the same way many similar bands opt to use them in the modern day. There are no EDM affects or earth-shattering “drops” or Avicii homages. Instead, Highland chooses to evoke the tones of the late Doors keys-smith Ray Manzarek and other 1960s psych-rock projects best seen at … well, best seen at Woodstock.
For proof, check the first 45 seconds of “In Moonlight.” Backed by a staccato drum/guitar rhythm, the organ sounds occupy the spots where you might otherwise imagine some serious heavy metal guitar riffage would land. The result is just so cool. “Find Our Way” then provides more of the same in tiny pockets throughout its duration, despite its occasional desire to be as close to a ballad as the band gets. Not only does the trick add an element of novelty to the group’s sound that sets them apart from other power-rock acts, but it also demonstrates precisely how much attention these guys pay to their craft. The organ isn’t an imperative texture; it’s just a delicacy that elevates Twin Radio above monotony.
And at the end of the day, that’s why “The Coast of Indigo” succeeds — it’s smarter than the average Bamboozle. Where these guys could have fallen into line with a lot of their polished power-post-pop-rock peers, Twin Radio does their best to establish themselves as a unique voice throughout each second of this set. “And I won’t look back/ ‘Cause there’s so much ahead,” Highland sings on the made-for-Top-40-radio “The Rest Is History.”
It’s an apt title. Because if these 10 songs say nothing else, they at least announce to the world that Twin Radio are on a collision course with a promising future. Actually, “So much ahead” is hardly the beginning.
*** 3 STARS OUT OF 4 ***