Twin Peaks: Lookout Low

Twin Peaks: Lookout Low

  • Grand Jury

2019

Chicago’s local heroes grow up a little on their fourth album and lose some of their live-wire charm in the process.

Twin Peaks are one of the most prominent Chicago rock bands of the past decade. If you’re not convinced, scroll through the subreddit dedicated to the quintet, who are lovingly nicknamed “the dudes” by many a Peakshead. For much of the band’s career, the loyalty to Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Jack Dolan, Colin Croom, and Connor Brodner was justified; since their 2013 debut mini-LP Sunken, the band have crafted bustling garage rock that was typically at least pretty good. Like their peers in Whitney and Post Animal (and even their old high school buddy Chance the Rapper), they owe a great deal of their success to the propitious Chicago scene, which builds a safety net from the devotion of their city’s audience. “You want to play well [at hometown shows], but if you play like shit, you know no one’s gonna care,” Frankel told Vice. In a live setting, the band’s music was a catalyst for those rowdy gigs that fans embraced—but on Twin Peaks’ fourth album, Lookout Low, it sounds like they’re finally tired of crowd surfing.

Considering Twin Peaks have been at this since they were 19, signs of them growing older were inevitable, but much of Lookout Low sounds more fatigued than mature. This album brings piano and a Croom-arranged horn ensemble to the forefront, invoking classic rock touchstones like the Grateful Dead and the Hollies. Old rock’n’roll influences are nothing new to the band; usually, they’ve been able to manipulate cues from their predecessors into an aesthetic that still felt contemporary. But this time around, like the Dr. Dogs and Edward Sharpes before them, Twin Peaks rely too heavily on these retro methods and often sound blatantly borrowed. As a result, there isn’t a fresh moment throughout the album’s 43 minutes. “Ferry Song,” inspired by Croom’s daily commute into the city during his stay in New Orleans, is about as invigorating as such a commute itself. Opener “Casey’s Groove” is too lethargic to earn its name, and the closing “Sunken II” only reaffirms the record’s monotony.

Lyrically, the album doesn’t do too much to redeem itself, and the platitudinal references to “the ice within my heart” and “sing[ing] our favorite songs” feel even more stale amid the tedious instrumentation. Lead single “Dance Through It”—which the band joked recalled Sheryl Crow—lived a short life as a Twitter meme, but it doesn’t leave a lasting memory otherwise. “Got a problem everywhere she goes/But she doesn’t pay mind to it,” James sings, although the stakes must not be so high: All she has to do is “dance through it,” as we’re reminded over 20 times throughout the song. “You’ve been bummin’ around/The bitter heart of December/Blame it all on the weather/Needless to say, I’m glad it exists,” Dolan sings on “Unfamiliar Sun,” as if to say he’s relieved to be able to attribute his laziness to the calendar alone. And then there’s “Better Than Stoned,” where Frankel howls gleefully about finding a love that gets him even higher than marijuana does.

There are fleeting moment on Lookout Low, like the rollicking “Oh Mama,” where some of the band’s old charm starts to poke through. There’s a reason local press dubbed Twin Peaks Chicago’s “Next Big Rock Band” in their early days, and for a while, that prediction seemed quite viable. But here, they mostly sound exhausted—like they’ve run out of ideas or motivation. When Dolan sings “I really run my mouth/I hardly use my brain,” he and his bandmates make it difficult to disagree.


Buy: Rough Trade

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