The four years leading up to the latest album from Cedar Falls band TWINS, Dream On, could be summarized in this line from track two, “Hearts”: “Well, I was playin’ around ’til you came to town…”
Singer and songwriter Joel Sires told me in a chat, “I’d exhausted the type of songs on [2016 album Square America] about chicks and ‘teenage’ lust. I wanted to grow up in my songwriting.”
In 2020, the TWINS’ style has moved from the chunky power pop send-ups they got very damn good at to a well-polished vehicle for Sires’ introspective songwriting. You might compare the transition to the one Chris Bell made from his work in Big Star to his solo work captured posthumously in I Am The Cosmos.
This direction in songwriting (plus a lineup change adding Toby Sires on lead guitar and Ben Rendall on piano and keys) has resulted in an album with complexity, demonstrating the band’s ability to stretch beyond the sparkling guitars and harmony juggernauts of their previous albums to reach a distinctive roots rock sound.
Which isn’t to say that the hooks and riffs aren’t there. Track four, “Passenger,” kicks off with familiar TWINS swagger and humor: power chords, strong backbeat and a tasty Stonsey Keef-esque bending guitar solo. It’s an anthemic tune for summer which belies its humorous UFOlogy (a timely topic, considering last year’s “movement” to storm Area 51 and the recent Pentagon UFO video releases).
The narrator and his friend spot some heavenly objects and decide they’ve been chosen for a close encounter of the absurd kind: “Neon summer night / Sky came alive / Four glowing orbs just hanging ’round the burger shack,” and, “Patiently await / In our green face paint / For the beautiful day we’re pulled aboard.”
Aside from “Passenger,” the songs and lyrics center around themes of love and loss and self-reflection. “Reminds Me Of The Rose” paints the picture of someone who realizes they, to quote Alexander Pope, “rush in where angels fear to tread” and wreck the good they have around them.
“We’re both the rebel kind / Following a foolish heart sometimes / It’s a slow-burning coal / We’re too far away to see the smoke.”
TWINS and Joel Sires are maturing as a band, and in doing so are writing songs that their audiences and fans will increasingly identify with. As Sires relates in album opener “The Laws of Love”: “Still dancing with the ghosts of what we’ve become / Wonderin’ how the world slipped from under my thumb.”
There’s no useful instruction book for getting older, but with Dream On, we have a soundtrack.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 282.