Written by Tim Jones
The cover of Twin Drugs’ latest release is an ominous view of a corridor that extends into total darkness. Mysterious and undeniably unsettling, the composition–the symmetry and perspective–draws you in. The art–from Christopher Royal King (ex-This Will Destroy You)–serves as a fitting package for the 10-song LP. Richmond’s Twin Drugs have consistently been putting out dense, dreamy, and at times chaotic shoegaze-adjacent releases since 2016, and with In Now Less Than Ever, the band reaches brighter highs and darker depths. It’s not shoegaze in the power-pop-with-reverb-drenched-vocals tradition. The most accurate canonized forebearer of Twin Drugs’ lane may be Ride, but as that preeminent Oxford band still had a healthy amount of jangle, Twin Drugs operates on a much doomier, distortion-covered backdrop. What the bands undeniably have in common is a rhythmic interest and complexity that makes each successive listen worthwhile.
Shoegaze, as a genre, can often give the listener little to grab hold of. The reverb, the repetition, and the vocals buried deep into the mix create a texture–but with very little friction. On In Now Less Than Ever, Twin Drugs find that friction and balance it against dreaminess. The most consistent members of Twin Drugs have been singer/songwriter/guitarist Blake Melton and drummer Alexander Wilson, and the symbiosis between those constants is palpable. Opener “Ash Candied Cough” begins with a whirling, music-box-esque sample accompanied by Wilson’s thumping kick drum and shaker. Once the guitars enter the mix, the soundscape expands. The low end provided by bassist and multi-instrumentalist Christian Monroe fills out every track in a maximalist fashion.
The band’s tendency to work in irregular time signatures is rewarding for experiencing the hypnotic appeal and analyzing and marveling at the craft. On “We Want Our Heaven,” a 6/4 beat cradles the wall-of-sound guitars. Wherever you are–the bed, floor, your car seat–starts to soften. You sink in. On second thought: probably not for driving. It’s intense, man. As you proceed down that corridor, losing track of time and space becomes easy.
Before the full album release, Twin Drugs put out the tracks “World Fell Off,” “Eyelets and Aglets,” and “Dust Worship” as singles, the former two featuring guest vocals from Mairin Monroe and Ali Mislowsky (Young Scum, Big Baby), respectively. Those two singles are a bit more direct and accessible, with genuine hooks that toe the line of being something right at home on, say, Slumberland Records, but always with an underlying menace.
“Dust Worship” may be the best example of the band’s mission statement. Pummeling hard-rock riffs alternate with euphoric, half-time washes of clarity. Unhinged rage and blissful lucidity. The song and the album have a narrative structure: exposition and arrival. Still, as In Now Less Than Ever concludes, you wish that you could understand more of the words. It’s cerebral music, creating a cinematic universe. Too often, the listener is left wondering if the lyrics are as mind-bending as the sonics.
In Now Less Than Ever is also an advertisement for the live experience. As Melton told Fifteen Questions, “How could this sound be reproduced in a live setting? Does the stage energy match the studio?” That approach to focusing on how the sounds could fill a venue creates a cavernous listening experience on record. This approach towards songwriting and sequencing is evident in the closer, “The Sun While You Can,” which builds to an intense climax and rapturous ending. Twin Drugs have shown you an acute view of their fatalistic view of the world, and it sticks with you long after the album has ended.
Tim Jones is a musician, writer, and teacher. @_madebed on Twitter.