Twerps and Ultimate Painting Provide a Friday Night of Laid-Back Rock

March 16th, 2015

Twerps – Rough Trade NYC – March 13, 2015

It was a slacker’s paradise at Rough Trade NYC on Friday night, featuring a couple of bands with a laid-back style that suited the packed house just fine. Ultimate Painting took the penultimate slot playing with that breezy ’60s Brit sound that’s best suited to London bands. They opened with “Ultimate Painting,” their debut album’s title track, singing, “I don’t know what I’m thinking” and sounding as wonderfully can’t be bothered as a group that only managed to come up with one name for everything. The principals, Jack Cooper and James Hoare, tossed vocals and guitar riffs back and forth like playing some lazy afternoon tennis before tea. The melodies were perfectly matched to the vibe, easy to listen to and easy to love. Following a handful of keepers from the album, Ultimate Painting played a few new ones, including “It’s on You,” a slick bit of bluesy pop with some just-fancy-enough guitar interplay and the lyric “C’mon, man, you made me late,” nicely capturing the vibe. “Central Park Blues” was somewhere between contemporaries Parquet Courts and Courtney Barnett, with a slightly angrier vibe contrasting with a sweet guitar that painted a kind of stoner New York City. Their set closed with “Ten Street,” a thumping drumbeat paved the way for a wailing guitar excursion that went as deep as advertised before ending in exactly 10 minutes.

Ending the show, Twerps, from Melbourne, Australia, took the jangly, slacker vibe to the extreme. Marty Frawley and Julia McFarlane split the vocal duties, alternating on songs mostly about love and/or heartbreak like it’s the only thing worth singing about—sounding like they were singing along to themselves in the mirror. With delightful melodies and an almost platonic ideal indie-rock sound, there was much for the crowd to love. With Frawley and McFarlane providing double duty on the singing and guitar licks, the real hidden secret of their live set was Alex MacFarlane on drums. His rhythms and textures added a vital flavor to the sound, giving the effortless sound a much-needed zest, from the mallets on “I Don’t Mind” to the tambourine-heavy playing on “Shoulders.” The latter featured a nifty guitar riff and built to a climactic 15 seconds of angry bliss.

The set picked up a bit of steam midway through, McFarlane’s guitar finding new ways to perfectly highlight the lo-fi songs as the Friday night crowd loosened up to dance. Even the banter had a lackadaisical demeanor: Frawley commented on a band they had opened for that said the same thing every night in a bit of meta chatter, and then later he and McFarlane mentioned how they had a bit of an argument in a way that was unclear the matter had been fully resolved. Still, it was tough to imagine any of them getting too worked up on a night as chill and laid back as Friday proved to be. —A. Stein | @Neddyo