Verdict: Twin Peaks play to their strengths with a blistering live set with raw, youthful energy.
buzz Factor: 8.9
Best Tracks: “Dead Flowers,” “Have You Ever?” and “Stain”
Worst Track: “Telephone”
Despite being overshadowed by a certain David Lynch series, the band Twin Peaks has been making a name for themselves ever since the release of their debut album “Sunken” on Autumn Tone Records in 2013. Preceding the release of their psychedelic garage punk odyssey “Wild Onion,” Twin Peaks made a star-turn at the Pitchfork Music Festival in the summer of 2014 (with one member performing from a wheelchair no less). Ever since that gig, Twin Peaks have pretty much been on a non-stop tour for the past three years. In between tours they took time to record and release 2016’s “Down in Heaven,” which earned them critical acclaim and boosted their exposure in the industry. However, their live shows are where they shine.
Twin Peaks comes from the DIY underground rock scene in Chicago. Basements, garages, backyards and apartments are where these rockers flourished. This allowed them to gain their footing under the spotlight as youngsters who had nothing to lose and everything to prove. Although their recorded efforts have become increasingly more ambitious over the years, I have always felt that as a live band, Twin Peaks was second to none. The raucous live shows of the band’s early days made them feel at home on stage, and since then their confidence has soared ever higher.
When you are at a Twin Peaks show, you feel something powerful. A surge of energy rushes through you, your veins are popping out, your heart is racing, you are screaming at the top of your lungs and raging back and forth with the groundlings as the five dude-migos rock your brains out. Yelling about marijuana and booze, singer Cadien James pulls off one of his trademarked Frankenstein head spins as his noggin thrashes from side to side at the speed of light. Guitarist Clay Frankel plays the instrument on top of his head and shakes his hips back and forth like the diva that he deserves to be. Drummer Connor Brodner smashes his ride cymbal like a surf rock soldier, leading the troops into an ambush assault. Bassist Jack Dolan is already in the audience surfing the crowd with ease, and on the keys Colin Croom keeps his cool as the band’s voice of reason. This is the legendary Twin Peaks experience that fans have cherished over the years.
Due to this prospect, fans have been clamoring for an official live output from the band for years. There is an endless amount of live footage of the band on the Internet with varying amounts of quality, but none of it truly captures the authentic vibes of a Twin Peaks show. Although there is an extended amount of media documenting this phenomenon, “Urbs in Horto” is the closest document of such a force.
Recorded over the course of a three-day stint in December, the hometown heroes headlined at major theaters in Chicago such as Thalia Hall and Metro to sold-out audiences. The tracks were recorded straight to analog tape by a Chicago company called Treehouse Recordings in order to provide the authentic sound of the shows. Analog recording is associated with the mythological titans of rock such as the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, two major influences for the band. Although most people that are Twin Peaks’ age listen to music on their computer, the warmth of analog tape no doubt helps “Urbs in Horto” stand alongside all-time classic live albums such as Kiss’s “Alive” and Cheap Trick’s “At Budokan.”
Along with stellar performances from songs off of all three of their studio albums, there are many special moments on this record that peak out like diamonds in the rough. The comedic onstage banter provides entertainment in between songs, and the selection of covers that the band performed is intriguing as well. Citing Keith Richard’s birthday, the band plows through a rendition of “Dead Flowers” that is successful because it stays within the confines of the Twin Peaks style, but is also a charming tribute to their heroes. In addition, the band covers a local Chicago group called Today’s Hits, giving them a run for their money with a performance of “What Up Dawg.” To cap it off, the band closes out the album with a bittersweet farewell via a piano ballad in which the band says goodnight to their “special one” and searches for the keys to the van. These little moments help this record hold its own as a stand alone album, rather than just a document of the shows.
“Urbs in Horto” is a Latin phrase that means “City in a Garden.” At one point in the show, Dolan says, “This is the best city in the world.” Twin Peaks knew that there was nowhere else on Earth that they could have recorded this album. Their hometown scene allowed them to climb up the ranks and have the opportunity to make it in this messed up music industry, and the openness of the fans let them foster an environment that they felt comfortable being in. “Urbs in Horto” is not only a success for Twin Peaks, but it is a bold statement from the Chicago rock scene and a testament to the city’s greatness. Years from now, people will remember this album not only for the amazing music, but because of the friendships that music fans and local artists have made with the members of Twin Peaks over the years. The underground rock of Chicago has now reached the surface, with Twin Peaks plowing full speed ahead.