Growing up in ‘90s Dublin, it was impossible for anyone with an interest in music to avoid Whipping Boy. They signed to Columbia Records even though they had a singer who couldn’t sing. They channeled Lou Reed, Joy Division and shoegaze instrumentation while playing on Later … With Jools Holland. They were unlike anyone else. So it’s a great surprise to find another band so reminiscent of their sound. Fake Nostalgia is an anthology of London’s Tempertwig; a band that combine Whipping Boy’s influences with Sebadoh style lo-fi and contemporaneous American post-rock.
You might know members of the band from Nosferatu D2 or Superman Revenge Squad Band. I hadn’t heard of either before hearing Fake Nostalgia but this record is reason enough to check them out. You’ll find them in Audio Antihero’s Bandcamp alongside this album.
Ben Parker’s vocals are lethargic and detached. He manages to sound simultaneously bored and bereft, dismissive and also deeply involved. He acknowledges the inevitable Ian Curtis comparisons on ‘Comfort Blanket’, “Why is the bedroom so cold, etc., etc.” Even on an album like this one, full of original ideas and idiosyncratic delivery, ‘Comfort Blanket’ stands out. The vulnerable beauty of the music and the introspection and self-hatred of the lyrics distil everything this band can do down to one four-minute statement.
Parker’s brother and musical partner, Ben, drums with personality and conviction. There are shades of Rob Ellis’ work with PJ Harvey and Stephen Morris, from the aforementioned Joy Division, in the drumming choices he makes, and in his military paradiddles. Harvey’s early albums seem to have been an influence on Tempertwig. Like her, Parker contorts old blues guitar tropes, but in his own fashion. His playing stretches time and compresses it, distorting your perception and pulling you through a dimensional drift. You have to go with it or you’ll leave your stomach behind.
With all the 20th anniversary reissues and remasters popping up, making one feel appropriately middle aged, it’s great to find something that’s been overlooked. Something that crosses the gap between Whipping Boy’s Heartworm and Fugazi’s The Argument. While The Strokes and The White Stripes hogged the spotlight, Tempertwig and McCluskey quietly, or indeed noisily, ploughed on unheralded. 15 years after they ceased operations, Tempertwig still sound fresh and transgressive. Parker sings “Fake nostalgia makes me sick” on the title track but I can’t feign nostalgia for something I never knew existed. Instead I’ll just revel in something new and exciting. In an overproduced world Fake Nostalgia sounds naïve, rebellious, and compellingly authentic.