Thank goodness he didn’t listen to me. TL;DR takes T0W3RS’ into a decidedly more synth-pop direction, and reactions (mine included) to the many live solo shows over the past year have proven T0W3RS 2.0 to be a wise upgrade. But you know what? It’s not really THAT different. T0W3RS is a good band because of Torres’ songwriting, and that hasn’t changed. Besides, most of the earlier T0W3RS recordings were made solo, and the very first couple did have a more electronic edge. What is different now is the showmanship these songs allow him to impart to his music, whether solo or with a backing band (people are still talking about what many called the best set at Hopscotch 2014). Derek’s always been a maniac onstage… never still for a second, guitar and hair swinging all around the place. He really gets into the music. But now, it’s more controlled… practiced moves a la Michael Jackson or Usher. This was part of what he’s told me he’s aiming for with his new music and performances: to give people a genuine show, an experience, some FUN!
But the music… the music more than backs up the flash. To go along with the metamorphosis, TL;DR (internet slang for “too long; didn’t read”), on Winston-Salem's Phuzz Records, is drenched in themes of openness, change, and acceptance. Cups begins with soothing, fading, electronic echoes, before driving drums and organ kick in. The lyrics preach “A cup of curiosity will fill you up / So take a drink, and pass it to me.” Apropos, I’d say. Cups is followed by the second should-be hit, The Situation, which has as great a hook as can be made with two simple, repeated synth notes. This song is a zen anthem disguised as a slow party-groove. “You can hate me when I’m gone / Away from all the fakeness and the scenes to come undone / This is just a part of everything that comes along.” He’s just doing his thing, hanging with his friends, and everyone’s welcome to join (haters included). I’m pretty familiar with this material live, but on the record, you hear a lot of little flairs and touches -- bells & xylophones, nice backing vocals (particularly on Situation), and great percussion -- that aren’t as discernable live.
After a pretty bubbly start, the album takes a shadowy turn with Raise the Gate. Although the first two songs may be more upbeat, this is still one of the more danceable cuts -- in a strobe-lit dark room kinda way -- thanks in no small part to the input of local compadres Body Games. Clipped hyper-pitched and uber-deep samples spar with Torres' own vocals, and there’s this ominous edge that’s always lingered in the background of much of T0W3RS’ music. P.S. I’m Sorry continues at a similar tempo... maybe less dark, a little sad. It’s a cover (billed as a “re-work”) of another local band, Motor Skills, stemming from an earlier project in which several artists interpreted songs by that band. Nice sax (yes, sax), too… there’s more than a bit of ‘80s influence at work here. But it never sounds derivative. Let Me In (written by Human Eyes' Thomas Costello) then picks it back up with the themes of change, the slow-groove dance vibe, and little bird-like sounds flittering in the background of Torres’ (yes, slight drawl/twang of a) voice. Instillation picks up the pace with maybe the most “rock’n’roll” cut on TL;DR. While it keeps the dusky feel of this mid-record detour, it’s nevertheless one rollicking number. It has this manic, almost disturbing guitar lick breaking in over ELO-from-Hell keys and drums.
Silk Hope lightens
the mood again, and really, it’s pure disco.
Donna Summer is jamming to this song somewhere. If we’re talking dance, this one is the most dance-y track on the record, complete with wakka-wakka guitar (maybe done w/
synth) and really nice percussion (courtesy Ryan Van Fleet). The latter gives it a great Afro-Caribbean/Brazilian
feel. Then, as when performed live, Silk Hope segues right into the equally
infectious M.P.D.B., which has Torres
dwelling perhaps on his changing sound: “I went back to a quiet mountain to find
some things to sell / But I know it’s not my sound.” Nice tweaking/squeaking/warbling guitars and
keys likewise puzzle over what to do, but they get there. Elasticity
starts by going back into the guitar base, but really turns into another jumpy
party-tune, with its rhythm, keys, and repeating “Ooh la las” leading the way.
It’s another dance-floor anthem of sorts, a good bookend to The Situation in both theme and