Super-strength tunes and spilt beer galore as Brum’s lairy lads embark on a major tour
Wanna go Twangin’ Out tonight? Here’s what you’ll need: one pint of beer, balanced delicately from the end of outstretched arms like you’re asking for a hug from a Wetherspoon’s doorman. One towel to twirl jubilantly over your head during the funky drummer bits. One perma-swearing motormouth mate doing all the rappy parts and calling everyone a “fucker” as a term of brotherly endearment, with whom to link arms and jig around the stage like it’s the last song of an E-fuelled all-nighter.
And one shit-eating, Tory-in-bondage-grin slapped across your face, like someone’s bought you a pair of auto-fellating trousers to celebrate your team winning the league.
“Let’s fuckin’ ’ave it! Phone your girl or phone your fella and tell them you’re going on the lash!” Oh yeah, Phil Etheridge is the mouth and mastermind of The Twang alright, snapping out threat-edged orders to party and rattling through the spoken word verses of their odes to Lad Living. But it’s Martin Saunders that’s the spirit; the boozy Bez beside him, boggle-eyed on Tennent’s Super rather than a Mitsubishi Mongmaker, crooning the choruses and swaggering blissfully around like he’s in the most fun band in the world.
Because, frankly, he is. Who wouldn’t want to be in The Twang right now? A bunch of Brummie estate mates living the gang-band dream, surfing the hype tsunami around the country, playing ecstatic anthems of love and lager to packed rooms the size of the factories where they were up to their arses in reject baked bean slop six months ago. True, the crowd awaiting them at the Brighton Concorde on the second night of their first full UK tour isn’t quite the horde of baying nu baggy nutjobs they’ll play to once their album has necked the charts in one. Just like early Kasabian gigs, for every bouncy teen disciple down the front there’s a balding baggy survivor at the bar and an ‘impress me’ cynic sneering at the sidelines.
Yet The Twang take the stage like it’s 4am at the warehouse party at the end of the universe, boshing like gatecrashers with a sack of drugs into ‘The Neighbour’, the cheeriest, wobbliest Twangletune ever written about beating eight degrees of shite out of someone who’s come to complain about the noise (“Remember that time when you was in my porch asking for a fight?/Well guess what man, it’s your lucky night”). Following up with the chucking out time one-two of ‘Loosely Dancing’ (Black Grape using Slinkys as guitars) and ‘Either Way’ (a pop Cure doing ‘Dry Your Eyes’ by The Streets – and tonight Mike Skinner is even in the wings taking notes), they’ve turned crossed arms into flailing limbs by the third song and the lash is loose. ‘Don’t Wait Up’, finds Phil and Saunders reeling and capering around the stage together like a two-man T In The Park, the ultimate anthemic ode to a long dark night of Southern Comfort. ‘Ice Cream Sundae’’s amazing Mondaydelic stomp sounds so good Kasabian want it back. And ‘Cloudy Room’ takes us on a hazy tour of a mashed-up house party, from the opiate-fuggy bedroom where Phil hisses venomous drugspeak in your ear over the ouija board (“lets get some Gianluca/Better phone the Juggler/You better phone your dealer”) to the lusty ecstatic dancefloor turning the front room into a mini-Manumission. And, as for the Jamesian bluster of ‘Wide Awake’? Man, Brighton fuckin’ ’as it…
Twenty four hours later, Saunders is sitting sporting a Cheshire Cat grin in a Nottingham Trent Uni lecture theatre that’s been converted into The Twang’s dressing room for the night, probably the first Twang ever to set foot behind a further education trestle. “I was expelled, me,” he chuckles sweetly. “I set fire to someone’s head.”
And there’s the essential dichotomy at the heart of The Twang. They’re romantic rascals – clarts with heart. Their reputation as braggin’’n’brawlin’ rockers misses the point entirely: for every rogueish rampage of booze and violence like ‘The Neighbour’ or ‘Don’t Wait Up’ that they batter Nottingham to a pulp with tonight, there’s a devotional heart-wrencher howling “I loov yer!” at some un-named missus (‘Either Way’, ‘Wide Awake’), or a brooding, Smithsy warning that you reap whatever Phil Mitchellism you sow (‘Reap’). And at the core of the entire Twang creed is a joyous revelling in the opportunity they’ve been given to drag themselves out of the gutter. ‘Push The Ghost’ has Phil hollering “There’s a devil in me and it’s pointing to the big time” over a tune that morphs from Depeche Mode echo rock into a cheeky steal from Salt’N’Pepa’s ‘Push It’. And the big time, in the form of 1,000 delirious Nottingham converts, points right back at The Twang.
As ‘Cloudy Room’ once more swirls to its feverish, feral climax, Phil and Saunders jig offstage arm-in-arm and spin together beside the stage, pints linked, twirling towels above their heads, dancing along with the kids to their own band. The most fun band in the world, having the time of their lives. Now that’s what we call being Out On The Twang.