Music Review: The Twinkeyz, Alpha Jerk

Published on June 15th, 2016 in: Music, Music Reviews, Punk, Reissues, Retrovirus, Reviews |

By Hanna

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The Twinkeyz are the kind of band that record collectors delight in, artistic and obscure enough to have little material, but not so obscure that there is no material available. And more than that, they have a definite and interesting style of music. The Twinkeyz are recommended in particular for fans of protopunk and the Velvet Underground, or even of neo-psychedelica. The Twinkeyz can be seen as part of the development of glam rock into punk, when the parts of punk had emerged, but not yet coalesced into a set of rules or expectations. By the time Alpha Jerk was released, punk had moved on into new genres, but The Twinkeyz were still being different.

Existing for a very short time, they released a number of singles around 1977, before recording one album, Alpha Jerk, released on a tiny Dutch label in 1979. Then they broke up. I haven’t heard an original copy of the album, but it’s said to have been badly produced and mixed. A previous re-release in 1997 offered the album and some other songs with improved production and new mixes. This version of Alpha Jerk uses the improved tracks for a full release by Ss Records, making a better quality version of the album available to a wider audience.

Alpha Jerk represents the kind of punk that hasn’t gotten much attention in the canon of punk: musically eclectic, not very serious, and impossible to pin down to one philosophy or aesthetic. It’s even debatable whether it really is punk. Most of the time, it sounds like it’s stranded somewhere between the Stooges and Zolar X.

There’s also an obvious influence of psychedelica, which makes their music a lot more musically experimental and unstructured than most punk. The songs have a tendency to descend into atonal jangling and electronics and the vocals more often than not sound like Lou Reed. An example of this style is “That’s The Way It Goes,” though on that song, the heavy, fuzzy sound is also lightened by bright retro background vocals. “ESP” and “Sweet Nothings” both have a distinct 1960s pop sound, while “Tonight Again” and “Strange Feeling” are almost like normal 1970s powerpop. On the darker side of the spectrum, “Alpha Jerk” is creaking and apocalyptic, and “1000 Reasons” and “Cartoonland” are minimalist and dissonant, sounding like the most alienating Velvet Underground songs but with less varied instrumentation. “Wild Love” has a heavy crunch that could be The Stooges or any kind of stompy proto-punk glam rock band.

The most interesting tracks are “Aliens In Our Midst”, which has computerised vocals (from aliens!!! of course) which are very fun, and “Twinkeyz Theme.” Theme songs are wonderful because they tell you who you’re listening to and what they think they’re doing. “We are the Twinkeyz. We’re here to entertain you,” the “Twinkeyz Theme” drones. Good thing we cleared that up. The sarcastic tone (“Hey ma, aren’t you proud of me?”) is a bit predictable but still a good source of dark comedy.

One of the selling points of this re-release is the inclusion of the original cover art. With Donnie Jupiter now working as a comic artist, you’d expect the band to have a strong graphic aesthetic, and the cover is quite attractive with its bright colours and splashy graphic letters.

Alpha Jerk is an interesting cult record, now available in a more accessible format and offering the original graphics. It’s a fairly advanced taste, because of its varied influences and the fact that it’s not as angry, fast, or minimalist as other punk, but also does not really resemble the new wave music of which it was a contemporary, either. On the other hand, that makes for a more interesting musical experience.

Alpha Jerk was released by Ss Records on May 20.

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