Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Twinkeyz "Aliens in our Midst"; Lili Haydn "Lili"

By Michael Henningsen

JUNE 29, 1998: 

Alibi Rating Scale:
!!!!!= Mad
!!!!= Bad
!!!= Dangerous
!!= To
!= Know


The Twinkeyz Aliens in Our Midst (Anopheles)

In a year of stellar reissues, this is definitely the most unexpected. The Twinkeyz, a Sacramento band existing loosely around the duo of Donnie Jupiter (vocals) and Tom Darling (guitar) from 1977 to 1980, released three DIY singles and an LP that came out only in Holland and then promptly disappeared. They've since been one of those bands you see occasional reference to in interviews (Steve Wynn and the Loud Family's Scott Miller, Sacramento boys themselves, have called the Twinkeyz a defining influence) or in the conversation of obsessive collector-geek fanboys, but whose music you just weren't ever gonna hear.

However, most reissues of obscure, unheard punk/garage/psych music only prove that this stuff was obscure and unheard for good reason. The most shocking thing about Aliens in Our Midst, the complete recordings of the Twinkeyz, is that it's incredibly good. There's a distinct resemblance to the mid-'70s Cleveland axis (Mirrors/Electric Eels/Rocket from the Tombs), which spawned Pere Ubu at about the same time--naive but inventive musicianship and a fondness for weird noise for weird noise's sake. However, Ubu's heroes and influences were wild-eyed '60s punks like the Seeds and the 13th Floor Elevators. The Twinkeyz sound like they memorized the Monkees' entire catalogue. The near-random atonal squonks and screetches are in the service of pure pop songs with enormous, inescapable hooks.

The unbelievably catchy title track sets the tone for all that follows: Jupiter's lyrics, conversational yet distinctly odd, go on not about little green men but about social outcasts, while Darling turns what should by all rights be unlistenable noise into pogoable pop. It's a classic single that should have been an enormous hit. Other titles detail the band's other concerns--"ESP," "Cartoon Land," "Alpha Jerk," "Watch Out For Her Kiss," "Moonbabies," and the amazing "Space-Age Rock Queen," all with tunes that match the lyrics' inventiveness.

These two-decade-old tracks sound like they could have been recorded yesterday--indeed, the Twinkeyz' resemblance to our local heroes Luxochamp is astonishing. Anyone with any interest in punk/pop/new wave music, current or historical, should find plenty to adore here. !!!!1/2


Lili Haydn Lili (Atlantic)

Normally, I run screaming from the room when I see a press kit that mentions the artist's "desire to connect with a universal spirituality through her music." The classically-trained violinist daughter of performance artist/comedian Lotus Weinstock, Haydn (the press kit also mentions that her only name was "Cherub" until age 12 when she renamed herself "Helicopter," another sentence that engendered involuntary eye-rolling) has played sessions and concerts with a who's who of unbelievably boring music: The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, No Doubt, Hootie and the Blowfish, Porno For Pyros and Jewel. (In her defense, she's also played with Victoria Williams and the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.) I bring all this up to point out how utterly amazed I am that this is such a good record.

Unlike Lisa Germano, another session violinist turned solo artist, Lili Haydn never makes music that's difficult to listen to. This is not to say she's churning out vapid fluff, just that there's something instantly inviting about her near-psychedelic blend of Middle Eastern-tinged melodies careening around a classical-based sense of structure (the last half of the album is devoted to a 16-minute suite of songs called "Baby," "Mama" and "Daddy," followed by the lovely six-and-a-half-minute instrumental coda "Wants Deep") and topped by Lili's unique voice, which mixes and matches Kate Bush-like theatrics (especially on the dizzying "Someday") with a muzzein's call and the clear, bell-like tones of Maddy Prior.

Unfortunately, the album does have prominent flaws. The rhythm section is often obnoxiously over-emphasized. Haydn's lyrics are uneven--for every tart and surprising line, there's a silly "I'm not your hair/you cannot cut me like that." And hopefully, the folks at Atlantic Records have noticed that, although some songs are co-written by Top-40 hacks like Glen Ballard, the album's highlights were all written by Haydn alone.

Besides, any album that thanks, among others, a former cast member of "Head of the Class" (Khrystyne Haje--you know, the really cute tall one with the long red hair) has to be cool. !!!1/2


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