Release Date: Aug 7, 2015
Record label: DFA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
Toronto shape-shifter Slim Twig (aka Max Turnbull) has been creating subversive pop music for more than ten years and, within that time, he's cultivated and then wiggled out from underneath various personas. When he half-joked that his early music was some kind of "concrete rockabilly," most people ignored the deconstructionist qualifier and wrongly presumed he was some weirdo roots revivalist.His new Slim Twig album finds him pulling away from the rebellious motifs of the '50s and '60s and into the shaggier, hazier realm of 1970s riffage, protest rock and off-kilter tones and rhythms. In a sense, it seems not so distantly related to his work in the Toronto buzz band Darlene Shrugg, who make a steamrolling kind of boogie rock.
Slim Twig is a big pile of the unexpected. You’ve may never have heard of him, but in his twenty six or so years this guy (otherwise known as Max Turnbull) has put out five LPs, scored two films, and also explored an acting career. He was also the producer behind two U.S. Girls LPs. It's only now ….
It’s nearly impossible for an artist to create a work that doesn’t draw on distinct influences from the past. For Toronto’s Slim Twig, born Max Turnbull, this rings especially true, as his version of ’70s art rock and psych instantly brings to mind figures like Bowie, Lynch, and Eno. Rather than coming off as an imitation act or someone merely paying tribute, Turnbull’s outsized personality and striking, twisted take on his music shows him following in the footsteps of visionaries by subverting expectations and bringing the spirit of arthouse innovators into current times.
Following up 2012's A Hound at the Helm, which was reissued by DFA Records in 2014, Slim Twig's fourth full-length album Thank You for Stickin' with Twig is a step up in terms of recording fidelity as well as ambition. It comes off as less of a pastiche than his previous efforts, focusing on a slow, druggy, swirling glam rock sound and largely dispensing with the rockabilly elements of his earlier work. The album features ornate instrumentation from a cast of over a dozen guest musicians, most notably including bassist Michael Rault and Slim Twig's wife, vocalist Meg Remy of U.S.
Over the course of five albums and many peripheral releases, Toronto-born Max Turnbull has fashioned himself an outsider narrative as Slim Twig. It’s true that 2009’s slimy sample-heavy Contempt! wasn't about to find a mainstream audience, though the crux of his self-styled myth hangs on Paper Bag rejecting 2012’s A Hound at the Hem for being too far out, which feels off when you consider the rest of their roster. Compared to his previous records, Hound was Slim’s most accessible release: A concept album loosely themed around Lolita and L’Histoire de Melody Nelson that conjured L.A.’s chamber pop weirdos Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, and Randy Newman in a dank, oily guise.
Slim Twig has always played with appropriating elements and reference points from previous eras of music, and then coming up with something new by shifting the context. The newest offering from the Toronto artist takes on the sounds of 70s stoner rock, but from the standpoint of someone who grew up with hip-hop and tends to operate more within experimental music circles than in the retro rock scene. While the album sounds surprisingly realistic at times, there’s always some element reminding you that it’s not 1976, and that separates the work from pure pastiche.