Admiral Twin [Album]

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Right around the middle of the 1990s, the underground demigods of the previous decade (Butthole Surfers, Meat Puppets, Mission Of Burma, the list goes on) finally got their due topside because bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam sang their praises; in an attempt to get the bands they loved some popular attention. It worked out too – because those bands just happened to have hit a point in their musical evolution that was palatable to mainstream audiences. Meat Puppets, in particular, did remarkably well with Too High To Die which combined some solid melodies, lyrics and songs. At around the same time, Wilco, Son Volt and Soul Asylum started to pick up steam with folk inspired tunes that were the soundtrack to every bush party in existence for a couple of years. It is that time period and the crossroads at which those two sounds find a common ground  that Admiral Twin taps into on Center Of The Universe. Mixing the instantly anthemia pop dynamics of Wilco`s early, A.M.-period work with the folksy harmonies of the Kirkwood Brothers circa “Backwater,” Tulsa’s Admiral Twin modestly recaptures the spirit of heart-on-its-sleeve underground rock with such an unassuming voice that it can’t help but be heart-warming. Does the band know, for example, that tracks like “Good As Gold,” “Fear” and “You Hung The Moon” have enough sweetness and soul encrusted on the edges of Mark Carr’s Dave Pirner-esque vocals and each string of John Russell’s arsenal of guitars to give any listener that remembers when ‘indie’ was synonymous with ‘college’ rock hope and a warm feeling in their stomach? Maybe – but if the band is making a canny play to resurrect those ghosts, they hide it well and just present themselves as a bunch of working class kids making music to avoid factory life and win hearts because of it.

The record isn’t without its flaws (“Renegade Planet” has too many clunking digital sounds for comfort, “Take Me Down” is a tepid try at ska and “Smash It Up” is just really, really stiff and uncomfortable) but, pound for pound, The Center Of The Universe mostly avoids top 40 clichés the band couldn’t  hope to sustain and sticks to the grassroots approach they wear very well.

As long as Admiral Twin doesn’t take leave of its’ collective senses and stays close to the foundations they know best (the same kinds of songs that shone on the band’s 2000 debut, Mock Heroic, are the forms that work best on Center Off The Universe), they’ve got a shot at being the private pleasure of those that find them. The band’s brand of college rock may never again be as hot a commodity as it was in grunge’s golden years, but there are enough dispossessed music aficionados out there that are disinterested with fashion but salivate for good rock to make the band folk legends.

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