It’s remarkably easy to dance through Lookout Low, the fourth album of legendary Chicago DIY rock band Twin Peaks. Though embracing a more grown-up sound than the raucous driven sounds of sophomore offering Wild Onion, this album maintains the groove that permeates the band’s output and doesn’t lose any of the heart of their sound. It’s the kind of album that would suit a road trip and that seems to perfectly embody the kind of laid-back American spirit of the band.
Taking a break to Wales to record the album, there’s something undeniably more adult-sounding about the album’s focus on new percussion, horn, harmonies, and piano. Twin Peaks debuts new singers, too, with its band members swapping vocal duties; it’s easy to miss the unforgettable sound of Clay Frankel, though, and the vocals on the other songs never quite match the heights of his own. The songs without his vocals feel somewhat less soulful, and even in ‘Under a Smile’, it feels a little underused. It’s definitely a bold decision in the evolution of their sound, but not one that necessarily works.
The lyrics aren’t particularly different from Twin Peaks’ usual: foot-tapping ‘Laid in Gold’ celebrates a friendship, and ‘Dance Through It’, about a woman who can shake off her problems as she dances, harks back to ‘Shake Your Lonely’ and its world-shaking subject. This shouldn’t necessarily be a problem: the album is full of easy-to-memorise earworms from “she dance through it, she dance through it” to “oh mama, that’s how you love”. But there’s also something odd about the fact that, though their melodies have grown up, the lyrics haven’t – ‘Better Than Stoned’ is an ode to a girl who’s, as the title suggests, “even better than stoned”.
It’s not hard to think that the album loses a little in its newfound complexity. Twin Peaks are at their best in tracks like ‘Oh Mama’, opening with a distinctive whoop and instantaneously catchy guitars. Tracks like the swinging ‘Ferry Song’ remind us that they’re a band that can play slower hits, too, but when the record finishes, it’s the more upbeat songs that stick in the memory of the listener.
Image: Cooper Fox