Tweak Bird were once famously tapped by Buzz Osborne (Melvins) as “...the best band going.” This is high praise, indeed, and in a strange way casts the band’s new album Any Ol’ Way into a realm of unfair expectations.
To devotees of strange, left-field, art sludge, decent descriptors for the band’s first two albums, this new album might be a bit of a disappointment. It certainly was for me as I anticipated the unhinged malevolence of early-career standout tracks such as ‘Spaceships’ off their debut Reservations.
Tweak Bird always had a fascination with bubbling psychedelia and strange textures, sure, but at the end of the day they anchored it all down with incredibly hefty, fuzzed-out riffs. Psychedelia and the blues, both prominent in the band’s early work, definitely take a much greater share of the spotlight on their newest album. Those who are looking for the latest dose of fuzz rock heaviness might be upset, but considering the band has been at it since 2008 now it is best to focus on understanding that bands get tired of cranking out the same show every year, and for those who trust a band in transit to new sounds there are rewards waiting.
This is not to say that Any Ol’ Way does not rock with the same snarling wit as the albums before it in moments. Album highlight ‘Mild Manor,’ for example, uses a locked-in krautrock groove to finally propel into a climax of dizzying stoner riffs. It is certainly heavy, and it certainly rocks. It also doesn’t come in until the second half of the album, and the way to that track is definitely more fixed into a sort of drunken-smile blissed-out summer haze that seems out of step with the band’s previous output.
‘Greens,’ for example, sounds like a particular brand of lazy that goes well with a lakeside six-pack of something cold and cheap. It has heft in its riffs and its fair share of reverberating soloing, but the vocals and the slacker pace of the song definitely sound more akin to a lazy day of bumping Creedence and rolling a joint of ditch weed in the back of a truck. It’s this sunburned party vibe that carries through the album, taking a sound that was once a little more precise and malevolent into newer, mellower realms.
Like it was said previously, this new direction has its rewards for a listener that is quick to adjust. Tracks like the shimmering, sun-worshipping ‘Peace Walker’ trade a southern rock vibe in for an extremely heavy nod to the Beatles’ golden pop melodies. These pop melodies end up becoming one of the most exciting elements to the album even if they are off-putting at first.
The vocal hooks in the late-album track ‘Burn One,’ for example, continue to seal the deal that pop is a good sound for the band. What is the logical step to take, after all, after you’ve created two albums of fine noise rock sludge? Bring in more melody, introduce exciting textures that weren’t there before, and if people peel away from your flock then they shouldn’t have been there to begin with. It is perhaps not as great a shock that these new elements are here now, introducing a more sunshining and jubilant Tweak Bird.
The band has always followed its own path and firmly set themselves up as outliers in a scene that like many others takes itself very seriously. In the end, this turn upward to the sky is the most exciting and bold move they could have made.