Hearing Aide: Twiddle ‘Plump- Chapter Two’

In January of 2015, Vermont based jam quartet Twiddle launched a Kickstarter for Plump Chapters One and Two. With their fan’s help, the band set out to launch two separate chapters. Fifteen months after Chapter One’s December 2015 release, Twiddle has unveiled Plump Chapter Two, the second half of the two-volume set.

Plump Chapter Two is juicy. It’s full of variety. It’s thick with unexpected sounds. It’s a glimpse into the vast musical variety that makes Twiddle such a success live.  Producer Ron Saint Germain (311, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth) masterfully brings Twiddle’s self-professed ability to “spin tall tales over an intricate soundscape of hi-def shred” to life.  At its completion, Chapter Two reads like a nod to the master sounds of the 90’s alternative rock scene.  And at the height of 90’s throwback in fashion, pop culture and music, Plump Chapter Two is just the right sound at the right time.

The album begins and ends at the hands of Twiddle’s pianist and keyboard guru Ryan Dempsey. “Enter” is only a mere 30 second glimpse into Dempsey’s contribution throughout the album. His compositions and his performance throughout Plump Chapter Two are whimsical and cartoonish, yet somehow also romantic and tortured. Dempsey deserves MVP nods for magically weaving the most classically branded sounds flawlessly throughout the album.

“Enter” is the perfect introduction to “Orlando’s”, a 9-minute jam vehicle which is a nicely packaged glimpse into Twiddle’s catalog history, with over a dozen references to some of the band’s most beloved songs, characters, and mantras.  But the song is also a peek into the band’s live show. Simply stated: the tune is catchy. It contains the sing-a-long type of ear worm that gets stuck in your head. The song is highlighted by the powerhouse duo of Dempsey and bassist Zdenek Gubb. Together, the pair weave groovy and unique  gems that put bounce in your knees. It’s a wonderful trend that, thankfully, is repeated more than once.

Originally called “L.A. Beach Song,” “Moments” has the potential to be the album’s most prevalent single. It’s the perfect showcase of guitarist and lead vocalist Mihali Savoulidis’ ability to write delicious hooks and positive emotionally fueled lyrics. The feel-good vibe of “Moments” makes it the perfect summer tune. If radio takes the bait, this song has the potential to be everywhere by early fall.

While Chapter Two has plenty of shiny, radio friendly hooks, it is also full of unexpected moments.  The album is littered with typical tinges of sadness, love and angst. But it’s the new way with which the band handles this subject matter that is the album’s biggest suprise.  When the band revealed the album’s third track “Juggernaut” this past April at the PlayStation Theater (NYC), fans were surprised and delighted by the tracks shock and awe factor. But the song’s live reveal does nothing for the power of the studio version. The song is angry, forceful, and political, yet it still has a conscience.  “Juggernaut” feels part Rage Against the Machine, part Beastie Boys.

Yet, despite the expansion of this edgier studio sound into the Twiddle catalog, Savoulidis stays true to his lyrical values. As with all his poetic content, Savoulidis continues to show a duality in his prose which is sometimes whimsical, heartfelt, and hopeful while managing to create a subconscious call to action.

Chapter Two is also home to Twiddle’s signature yarn spinning tales via “Nicodemus Portulay” and “The Fantastic Tale of Ricky Snickle.” In the middle of the album, sits “Forevers.” This one take, improvisational piano piece showcases Dempsey’s classical training at it’s finest.

Bassist Zdenek Gubb is a quiet force behind Twiddle’s most unique showings. His musical growth is the most evident, especially between Chapters One and Two. It’s in instrumental songs like “Milk” and “Peas and Carrots,” of which Gubb is given full songwriting credit, that listeners truly hear the musical creativity inside his head. Dempsey’s piano arrangements highlight both song’s unique timing signatures and unexpected transitions.

Drummer Brook Jordan contributes lead vocals and full songwriting credit for two of the albums tracks “New Sun” and “Drifter.” There is an easy, soft timbre in Jordan’s vocal work. “Drifter,” which has yet to be released live, is poised to be the album’s sleeper hit. The song contains finely placed instrumental work by both Savoulidis and Dempsey. Jordan’s signature mellow and smooth songwriting style is the perfect base for the tune to take on new life live with plenty of space for musical exploration.

Towards the end of Chapter Two are three golden nuggets.  “Blunderbuss” which was debuted live almost a year ago, when the band played the Captiol Theatre in May 2016, is a powerhouse instrumental.  Technically, the song is a knock out.  It is rich in tone and musically sound,  but the studio version is missing a certain “je ne sais quoi.” There is an edge and grit to the song live that doesn’t quite fulfill its full potential in the studio.

“Fat Country Baby” a quick and playful bluegrass tune is a mere 70 seconds but requires multiple listens to appreciate the vast layered production quality. “Dinner Fork” is a perfect blend of Dempsey’s signature sounds – part classical, part terrestrial. All four members bring something different to the song. Savoulidis’ guitar brings an edge while Jordan and Gubb’s respective rhythm  work lays a solid base for Dempsey’s handy work.

Through of all of its success, Plump Chapter Two misses only on superficial levels. There are often abrupt transitions in feeling between tracks.  It’s an unused opportunity to create a story with the songs presented on Chapter Two.  And although tracks like “Juggernaut” and “Moments” are perfectly placed in terms of commercial viability, the album’s track listing order could have made for a much more impactful finished product.

Savoulidis shows great restraint vocally throughout the album.  His powerful lyrical content is highlighted by rich diction and confident conveyance. But that clarity of delivery also appears to have sacrificed a small amount of emotional delivery. It’s a tricky balance for even the most seasoned of vocalists. While both Savoulidis and Jordan nail their respective vocal work, much like its predecessor Chapter One, both of Twiddle’s main vocalists have yet to find a way to blend their voices.

Newly remastered songs from Chapter One, which includes a rerecorded 2017 version of Twiddle’s “When It Rains, It Pours ” will be released with Chapter Two as the band’s first ever two-volume set. Chapter One’s “Five” is represented twice with both a new radio edit and the original album version. As of release day, Plump will only be available for purchase and download as a two-disc set.

Plump Chapter’s One and Two drops April 28 via all major downloading sources including iTunes and Amazon. Pre-order of the double disc are now available and includes three immediate downloads accessible immediately. In addition, a double disc vinyl set is available for purchase through Twiddle’s website, however vinyl will not be shipped until August 2017.

Key Tracks: Orlando’s Bar, Juggernaut, Moments