The Topp Twins: Honky Tonk Angel (Topp)

 |   |  1 min read

The Topp Twins: Palamino Moon
The Topp Twins: Honky Tonk Angel (Topp)

To be perfectly honest I went off the Topp Twins very quickly: around the time of the Women's Web Collective album Out of the Corners of '82 and in a few subsequent years I thought they were terrific and iconoclastic, and their stage shows howlingly funny.

But then their humour seemed to become more tame, mainstream and -- at a time when sophisticated comedy was all over television -- I found their rural, Fifties style exceedingly safe, the characters long-gone cliches and not a little dull.

I probably also had a bad yodelling experience as a child, and that didn't help.

I caught a few albums along the way and, well . . . They weren't for me.

This album however, with a few misgivings (and there's yodelling in a couple of places), is something quite different: produced by Don McGlashan and with his Seven Sisters band (and other guests) this gets to the heart of classic country music with a local twist and damn if I can't feel a warm waft of the Pacific in some places (their version of Iris DeMent's Infamous Angel, Lynda's beautiful Mustang Mountain).

They acknowledge Patsy Cline in the title track, Jools' exceptional and slightly melancholy ballad Palamino Moon up next tells you something special is happening (even if you don't like yodelling) and by the time I got to their sensitive treatment of John Prine's Speed of the Sound of Loneliness I was in heart-meltdown stage.

That said, I look at a TT song with the title Calf Club Day with trepidation (it isn't what you might think but yet another gorgeous ballad).

Yes, there is an aw-shucks countrified factor here (their own knees-up'n'fiddle with yodel on Holy Cow, lesserly so on Keiran Kane's Town This Size) but they also bring a funkyreggae-style version of Hirini Melbourne's Nga Iwi E to the party.

However it is the many original pop songs and ballads with their gentle production, harmonies and deft musical embellishments (World, Throw Down Your Guns and Milestones in addition to those mentioned) which really impress here. 

Cleanly produced, impeccable musicianship and revealing an emotional and deeply sensitive side of the Topps which I hadn't heard before, this really is quite a revelation to me.

Although I am not the most qualified person to make this comparison, I suspect this is best album of their career. Untouchable, right? 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 The Puddle: The Shakespeare Monkey (Fishrider/Yellow Eye)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 The Puddle: The Shakespeare Monkey (Fishrider/Yellow Eye)

Dunedin's The Puddle should have been bigger (and perhaps better) than they were during New Zealand's vibrant indie-rock scene in the Eighties and early Nineties. But they were sometimes... > Read more

Grace Jones: Hurricane (Wall of Sound)

Grace Jones: Hurricane (Wall of Sound)

It has been about 20 years since the formidable Grace Jones menaced us, but she's back and her opening salvo on this typically groove-oriented album is her declaiming "this is my voice, my... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

PETER GABRIEL CONSIDERED (2013): Having others blow his horn

PETER GABRIEL CONSIDERED (2013): Having others blow his horn

Things always seemed unusual – and unusually fraught sometimes – in Peter Gabriel's world. In Genesis he attempted to expand the parameters of popular music through increasingly... > Read more

THE BEATLES Vs THE ROLLING STONES by JIM DeROGATIS and GREG KOT

THE BEATLES Vs THE ROLLING STONES by JIM DeROGATIS and GREG KOT

At a first glance this lavishly illustrated and beautifully presented book -- with dozens of relevant, interesting and never before seen photos of the bands, and of period-piece memorabilia, movie... > Read more