The Twinemen’s second album, “Sideshow,” is out. Don’t hesitate to pick it up, or to see them live, although Massachusetts has a while to wait until the band comes around again; the Cantab Lounge’s CD release party last Saturday was it until at least November, according to the schedule on the band’s revamped Web site.
Part of the pleasure of Twinemen is its lingering Morphine undertone. The band members may reasonably resent that, but Morphine was such an exciting part of living here — the knowledge that something so good, so original, so cool was born in Cambridge and having such impact — that the persistence can hardly be faulted. And Twinemen members hardly play it down, even continuing to play a song or two from its predecessor band at each show and describing their “Twilight” as a track that “recalls the softer side of Morphine.”
“Sideshow,” befitting its name as a collection of oddballs and flukes, also breaks down a bit toward the end, just as Morphine albums could.
Where Morphine’s beat sensibility led to experiments such as “Slow Numbers,” “The Jury” or “Free Love,” creating an intense, wandering feel that usually came home, settled down and snuggled in by the final track, the Twinemen album leaves tunefulness behind at the blaring “Saturday” and never quite makes it back. Four tracks later it ends with the slight, and slightly dissonant, “The Circle,” which at least serves the purpose of sending listeners back to the earlier, sublimely tuneful, portion of the album. See for yourself online, if you have Real Player with the proper audio components.
This is not to say that the album isn’t wonderful, but its wonders are more straightforward through the first seven tracks. And such things go over even better live, where even the oddest of Mark Sandman’s Morphine explorations seemed intriguing and avant-garde instead of irritating, as they could on CD. When Twinemen perform live, people get up and dance, as they did Saturday, or at least groove appreciatively and energetically. The band gets love and gives it back.
Saturday it also gave back Ses Carny, a “Human Freakshow” who hammered a nail, screwdriver and ice pick into his nose, pushed needles through his resistant flesh, picked up weights and swung them with his nipple rings and, surprisingly unimpressively, slipped hooks under his eyeballs and pulled on the connected chains. Hard.
This was obviously in keeping with the “Sideshow” nature of the album, but it also contributed to the night’s sense of surprise and experimentation — cool for a band that can be as sweet as the Twinemen, whose weirdness used to lurk in lyrics camouflaged by compelling but more innocent-sounding music.
Ses Carny won’t necessarily be back, but Twinemen will. See them. Until you can, the “Sideshow” CD is the next-best, weird but wonderful, thing.