Posts Tagged ‘Twerps’

Martin Frawley

While the name Martin Frawley doesn’t won’t jog immediately for some folks, the name Twerps might. The Melbourne-based songwriter headed the band over the last few years until both his relationship and his band dissolved – the two events inextricably linked. In the wake of such upheaval Frawley seemingly let the world get on top of him, as the album’s standout “End of the Bar” recounts in a Trees Lounge-esque tale of becoming a permanent fixture always over the limit and lamentably acting in ways he’d live to regret. The album also paints a picture of coming to terms with the loss of such an important piece of one’s life. Over the course of Undone at 31 Frawley contemplates the constant second guessing of loss, the joy of finding a partner, and the work of letting them go.

In Frawley’s case that involves (as “Just Like The Rest” details) finding a way to not only walk alone, but sing alone as well. The record reflects the more solitary tone in both his lyrics and the music. Twerps were never a particularly overwrought band musically, but Undone bests them at their own minimalist game. The songs are steeped in austerity – morning plunks of piano, single guitar strums, the lonesome whinny of violin – and the weight of loss is felt from the very corners of the record.

Now while the road to hangdog troubadour is never one wrapped in joy, the upside here is that it seems to truly suit Frawly. The handprints of ‘70s loners are all over this record – from his Townes masquerading in Nilsson’s bathrobe delivery on “Does She Want Me?,” to the picking-up-the-pieces epiphanies of Gene Clark. Most have had the bottom of the world drop out from them every once in a while, but it seems that Martin has managed to translate that sense of disarray into poignant sketches about picking the pieces up and fitting them back together, even when that means trying to cram those pieces into a life that somehow seems too small now. We all have to get our shit together sometime, but at least now we have a soundtrack to ease burden.


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Martin Frawley on Maurice Frawley and Working Class Ringos – Triple Skin Marquee

For anyone even remotely familiar with the site, they’d likley know that I have the softest of spots for Aussie indie. Naturally over the years Twerps found their way among the loves here at RSTB. The band’s early releases had a shaggy earnestness that shone through their fidelity limitations. It seems that Merge thought much the same and in 2015 they took a jump to the top tier indies before the band called it quits shortly after due to personal differences. In the wake Martin has struck out solo, spinning the band’s bare, honest jangle-pop into something more toughened and weathered, yet still with a cocked eyebrow and an ever-present smirk. Sounding like Harry Nilsson taking apart Townes Van Zandt songs, its a definite shift in tone, but a welcome progression for those that have had Frawley on the turntable these past few years. Seems there’s another influence on his solo LP, that of his late father Maurice, who’s own career tumbled through a few groups in the ’80s (Olympic Sideburns, Japanese Comix) and wound up in solo territory in ’90s and ’00s. Martin talks through his dad’s legacy and the imprint this record left on him and his new direction below.

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J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest

Without a doubt one of the great nests of underground Aussie gems seems to be emanating from Melbourne’s Hobbies Galore. The label, responsible for offerings from Blank Realm, The Green Child, The Stroppies, and Mikey Young, has a crack of 2019 debut from ex-Twerps member Julia McFarlane in her Reality Guest guise. The record is an extension of McFarlane’s work as Hot Topic (a positive naming move in my opinion), and she’s even got former Topic members Ric Milovanovic and Violetta DelConte Race along for a couple of track co-writes with some flute help from friend Ela Stiles. While The Twerps were borne out of humble strums and awkward pauses, they evolved into a properly breezy indie-pop outfit in due time. On TA DA, however, McFarlane seems to be sealing up the easy entry with a flair for bone-dry janglecore and post-punk that eats up crumbs trailed by Kleenex, Mo-Dettes, Oh-Ok and Confetti.

Despite its simple setup and economical hooks, the record isn’t batting for twee charms. There’s a darker tone to this than has previously seeped into even Hot Topic’s fuzzier confines. Like her ex-bandmate Frawley, the record chews on the raw ends of the dissolution of relationships and alliances. The album is full of contradicting impulses and melodies fighting one another for space. Julia’s vocals descend from a place of dreaming to take on the pang of forlorn while the musical accompaniment twists at the UHF reception with a dulled pocket knife. The record isn’t what might be expected of her as a closed chapter on The Twerps, but it’s a haunting and personal delight even when it’s at its most dour. As with most of those ‘70s and ‘80s touchstones previously mentioned, there’s more than a few kernels of pop underneath the whittled to the bone nature of TA DA and if you come with a head ready for humble hurt, then the record will not disappoint.




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J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – “Your Torturer”

Twerps have great solo projects coming out in droves these days. In additions to the EP from Alex MacFarlane earlier in the year and the upcoming LP from Martin Frawley, the band’s Julia McFarlane (formerly known solo as Hot Topic) has a new full length on the way under the name J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest. The first single from the upcoming TA DA is couched in jangles and floated by flute. “Your Torturer” isn’t a straightforward strummer though. The flute and guitar lines spar with one another, with the latter pecking out a choppy, yet catchy saunter. By contrast McFarlane and the flute lilt their way dreamily through the song, oblivious to the sprightly strums below. Both McFarlane and Frawley are straying from the sound that made them occasional household names and its great to see them picking apart pop to find some new ground. The record lands on Hobbies Galore in January.



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Martin Frawley – “End of the Bar”

This Martin Frawley album is shaping up to be the “sorting your shit out” record that we all need this year. Recorded in the wake of a break-up and band dissolution, the record was admittedly written while Frawley took some stock and reassessed his life. More often than not, Frawley admitted, it seemed those moments wound up in a bar or two. I understand the impulse, numbness kills the ache and even if you’re surrounded by strangers, its better than sticking it out alone. Few of the songs encapsulate the self-destructive, self-loathing quality that often creeps up during the times that it seems all the load-bearing emotional wall come crumbling down than “End of the Bar.” He sums up the feeling of trading friends for regulars and unloading your problems on fellow drunks nicely when he sings, “You look familiar, you look tired, you look like you’ve dealt with me.”

The song realizes the kind of asshole we let ourselves become when we think its all come undone. As someone who’s spent time on both sides of the bar wood, the drunk that unloads all their issues is a familiar face. Frawley coming to terms with himself and his own insufferable self is as numerous as it is satisfying. Here’s hoping there’s more hubris and hope on the upcoming Undone at 31.



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Martin Frawley – “You Want Me?”

I was out on vacation last week so the site was runnin’ pretty bare bones. Sadly, that means a few good things got lost in the cracks, but there’s always time to go back for the ones that got away. Case in point, this first single from Twerps’ Martin Frawley. Unfortunately, the advent of Martin’s solo career comes with the news that The Twerps have disbanded as the relationship split between Frawley and the band’s Julia MacFarlane’s marked the dissolving point for the Aussie janglers. Frawley’s first taste of an upcoming album shows a marked shift from the band’s humble pop sound and its not quite what I’d have expected as an offshoot of the band.

Frawley adopts a walking country cadence but stitches it to a wide-open vista of clean piano, loping strums and burbling synths. The song has the feeling of a late night session with no ticking clock, chasing bliss, loss and the bittersweet betweens while channeling Dylan devising a “Pancho and Lefty” for 30 year-olds hitting the reset button.



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Alex MacFarlane – “Planetarium Nights”

While there are plenty of great Aussie indies to keep on radar Hobbies Galore seems to be kicking up the dust quite nicely this year. With releases by Stroppies, Blank Realm and a tape issue of the debut Green Child album, there’s quite a bit of talent to be had. A cornerstone of the label, however, has been solo releases from Alex MacFarlane a fixture in Twerps, The Stevens and Teen Archer. The latest 7″ sees MacFarlane working through jangle-pop structures with prog-blocked overtones. There’s a slight dissonance that doesn’t always pop up in his other works, but at the core this is still prime Aussie jangle that’s a testament to MacFarlane’s prowess.

Standouts “Good With Little Numbers” and “Starter People” push this way beyond solo sketchbook fodder, proving that MacFarlane has plenty of hooks in his back pocket and a warped sense of pop that burrows under the skin. He fleshed it out with instrumentals that writhe and twist with synths and curls of noise. While I’d never balk and new Twerps or Stevens material, this release in particular begs for more from the artist solo. This one’s slipping out quietly but that’s no excuse to let it slip by completely.

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The Stevens

Sharing members with The Twerps and Boomgates puts The Stevens in good company, but though they echo traces of the current new wave of Aussie bands, the group also taps into classic leanings in a bigger way than many of their compatriots. Trading out lo-fi grit and soft focus production for a tougher skin of meaty hooks and power pop thump alongside the requisite bag of jangles, Good is rooted in an alternate ’70s where the radio eschewed the sexual sweat of blues-baiters for a good dose of post-punk and anxiety.

As with their previous album, A History of Hygiene, brevity isn’t in The Stevens’ wheelhouse. This one clocks in with eighteen tracks, though to be fair that actually pulls back the reigns a bit on the last one’s twenty-four piece spread. They make good use of the material, though, using their songs to explore corners of their sound without feeling too much like they’re in need of an editor to put the indulgences in the bin. Plus, when the band is on, they’re on, threading the needle of angst with just the right amount of brain battering earworms. A solid sophomore effort that skirts the slump and puts The Stevens up on the chain of Aussie bands to keep your eyes on.




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Best of 2015


Its been a long year at RSTB and though the pace may have been slower on the face, there has been lots going on to be sure. Next year marks our 10 year anniversary and we’ll have a new look shortly, so stay tuned. There will also some other fun things to mark the anniversary as 2016 wears on. But enough of the future, let’s look to the past. Here are my favorites of 2015, as usual in no particular order, along with a mix of tracks.

Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (BUY)
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (BUY)
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up (BUY)
Young Guv – Ripe For Love (BUY)
Sir Richard Bishop – Tangier Sessions (BUY)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (BUY)
Wand – Golem (BUY) // 1000 Days (BUY)
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (BUY)
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes (BUY)
Mikal Cronin – MCIII (BUY)
Twerps – Range Anxiety (BUY)
Future Punx – This Is Post-Wave (BUY)
Sean McCann – Ten Impressions for Piano and Strings (BUY)
The Mantles – All Odds End (BUY)
Barreracudas – Can Do Easy (BUY)
Peacers – Peacers (BUY)
Love Axe – South Dakota (BUY)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (BUY)
Fuzz – II (BUY)
Sauna Youth – Distractions (BUY)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (BUY)
Swiftumz – Everybody Loves Chris (BUY)
Rabit – Communion (BUY)
Holly Herndon – Platform (BUY)
Herbcraft – Wot Oz (BUY)


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