Last Friday, the Vermont-based jam band Twiddle released their dual album, PLUMP Chapters 1 & 2. Diehards might already have PLUMP Chapter 1 in their hands, which was released a while back formally and via their highly successful Kickstarter campaign, which saw the band raise over double their fundraising goal of $20,000. The two albums composing PLUMP exhibit the breadth of Twiddle’s musical abilities, and the double album seems like a natural choice for new fans who want to see what the group’s all about—this is highlighted by the addition of a reworked version of one of their most popular songs and forever fan-favorite, “When It Rains It Pours,” as the new first track on PLUMP Chapter 1. Meanwhile, older fans will be satisfied by diving into the new material on PLUMP Chapter 2, which brings a bunch of fresh music to the table that showcases the absurd breadth of the sounds the group is exploring, many of which are likely to or have already made it into the group’s regular show rotation.
After the brief introductory track—just Ryan Dempsey’s cascading piano playing off the theme of “When It Rains It Pours”—the group gets right to business with “Orlando’s.” The song’s start is almost disjointed, particularly when considering the lyricism of the introductory piano track, and the tone of a baby grand, which evokes sounds of a jazz club, juxtaposed with Mihali’s heavy crunching guitar riffs sets up a tension that the band then resolves as the lyrics dawn. The song’s lyrics are playfully self-referential, as the characters from countless past Twiddle odes are all put in conversation with one another at the song’s namesake bar.
Like the bar band that names itself “Jamflowman McRatt” or a bar patron called “Frankie” stumbling in to order Sour Milk, the ballad, with its heartwarming horns, finds the mellow center at the heart of Twiddle’s endless repertoire. A thief called Carter Candlestick, Zazu, the pothead bird, and quite a few others figures from the group’s universe are all there. It’s on one level impressive—the fact that there are so many interesting characters in the world of Twiddle—but at the same time somewhat unfulfilling for those familiar with the group, as each of these fascinating individuals delivers such a brief 4-bar update on their life that leaves frends wanting more.
Coming next is “Juggernaut.” Whatever you’ve heard of Twiddle, you’re not prepared for “Juggernaut,” and, frankly, I don’t think anything I could tell you would prepare you. It’s got gnarly apocalyptic political screamed lyrics and a pretty straight-up metal guitar solo. It’s pretty far out there, but also a welcome addition to the collection, which could be read as a declaration by Twiddle against the soulful white-boy reggae world of Slightly Stoopid/Stick Figure/311 that a lot of folks try to peg them in to. Following “Juggernaut,” the band doubles back on itself by going into “Moments.” Unlike “Juggernaut,” which effaces their traditional speculated sound, “Moments” embraces it, constituting an irresistibly catchy, reggae number in a style that the group is sometimes pigeonholed.
“Milk” almost sounds like a samba number until the shredding section of it begins. Perhaps most influenced by Santana, the lyric-less song is definitely designed for the band members to show off their chops and is likely to be used as a workhorse for jamming in a live setting. “Nicodemus Portelay” introduces a new character who takes the track’s name to the band’s universe, though the Nicodemus seems to inhabit the darker corners of their world. The incessantly bubbly riffs that make up the meat of the track are reminiscent of the band’s “Bee-Hop,” frenetic to the point of nearly jumping on each other though imbued with a darker energy.
Contrasted with the heaviness of “Milk” and “Nicodemus Portelay,” the next song “New Sun” is again a thematic turn, with Twiddle using the song to show off their ability to make a solid daytime festival tune—you’re going to enjoy cracking a beer to this one in the lake at Frendly Gathering. From there, the album moves into “Forevers,” a classical and exploratory piece from Ryan Dempsey. Again, the sound of the album is constantly shifting, and the song offers a great place to get lost and a sublime divider in the middle of the PLUMP Chapter 2.
There’s no better way to describe ‘The Fantastic Tale Of Ricky Snickett” except as Twiddle parodying itself, childish and whimsical to the point of absurdity. It genuinely sounds like what some of what someone would sing at you in a mocking manner in response to your saying you liked Twiddle. It moves into “Peas & Carrots,” one of the most impressive tracks on the album. Instead of being pollyanna-equely happy, the hybridizing reggae-jazz instrumental beast that emerges is alternately driving and blissful, equal parts heavy and hopping.
“Drifter” shows the band’s more classic-rock influences and inclinations in its introduction. As it evolves, its alternatingly crisp and fuzzy guitar line evolves into more of a Dispatch-type sound, and drummer Brook Jordan’s soulful voice carries the melody beautifully. You can listen to its live debut last week below, courtesy of Bacala Brothers.
“Blunderbuss” is a song rooted in the band’s live show, demonstrating their ability to drive a roaring audience into an absolute frenzy. It’s got an Umphrey’s-esque tone, merging proggish and classical sensibilities. It also pairs gracefully with the song after it, “Dinner Fork,” another cosmic meditation that seems destined to sit in the middle of jam sandwiches at shows for years to come.
“Purple Forest” sounds like the theme song to Radagast The Brown’s life deep in the forest, and almost acts as a lavender sorbet palate-cleanser at the end of this fifteen-course meal of an album (twenty-seven courses if you include Chapter 1) that seems to have stretched from classic and prog rock, metal, reggae, jazz, jam, classical, and more across its entirety. PLUMP Chapter 2 demonstrates the absurd variety of music Twiddle can weave together. Along with its compatriot, PLUMP Chapter 1, the double album is a playbook for the depth and diversity of Twiddle’s sound that will solidly ground it among the group’s past and future work. You can cop PLUMP Chapters 1 & 2 on the band’s website here, plus check out their site for upcoming tour and festival dates.
[Photo: Jay Blakesberg]