Awesome Feeling 7: Trick Mammoth ‘Baltimore’

Trick Mammoth

Brought to you by The Corner and NZ On Air, Awesome Feeling 7 is an online event running through NZ Music Month 2013, culminating in the release of a free downloadable compilation of 20 New Zealand songs and the words written about them. Each weekday for 20 days we’ll post streaming+downloadable tracks from emerging local artists, accompanied by artist and track profiles authored by Corner contributors.


“Twee is the new punk,” according to Trick Mammoth drummer Sam Valentine. Sorry Trust Punks, I might have compared you to Television only last week but I’m already being ordered to move on, RIP. I think Sam Val might have been drunk when he wrote it, but he makes us wonder all the same: If punk’s not dead, then where the hell is twee? After all, as the always-exemplary Jeffrey Lewis demonstrates, the two can share – and do often share — common ground. So the answer, my friends, is: Nope, twee is not here. Sorry, not here either.

Let’s pick up from where we left off with Salad Boys. Reserved ≠ resigned. Just the same, ‘Baltimore’ may be inoffensive and mild, but it is far from uncaring. Rather, like all good twee, it cares a fuckload — that’s a metric fuckton — an amount of anxiety enough to align all the nervous librarians in the universe. While a lot of the twee we know is nothing more than distracted playschool ramblings, the real, powerful stuff is more mature in its understatement than any other kind of music. Look no further for proof than Beat Happening, 80s progenitor of innocent rock yet always the somber voice of adulthood tragedy, whispering it most convincingly in ‘Tiger Trap’s web of peter pan codewords. “What’s forbidden / Is it treasure hidden?” It’s true: the nicest stuff is that which makes you sick to your stomach. Kind of like eating candy until it makes you puke.

The vocals are so sensitively whimpered that I can’t pretend I know what the hell Trick Mammoth are singing about, but hey, that’s tradition. Blame early Creation (but go easy on young Scotland). As a matter of fact, ‘Baltimore’ doesn’t sound too far off from that label’s ‘Ecstacy’ EP by My Bloody Valentine. And the comparison doesn’t end there, as the furious drumming of both Sam Valentine and his unpronounceable Irish counterpart Colm Ó Cíosóig would agree. Let’s just hope that they make a better business decision than MBV by not running their label guy, Ian Henderson, into the ground.

With the UK indie pop goldmine exploited, we now cross the ocean to America for further comparisons; here we find more of D.C.’s Black Tambourine happening in Trick Mammoth than there is Beat Happening happening. Unfortunately, their heroes Black Tambo expired along with the rest of twee pop – and most of the indie underground, for that matter – with the onset of the grunge juggernaut that swallowed them alive. This was 1991 – just about the same year the members of Trick Mammoth (and this obsessive, overreaching writer) were born. 21 years, it seems, was enough for Adrian Ng, Millie Lovelock and Sam Valentine to develop a collective ambition to relive their twee heroes’ fantasies and sign to Slumberland. Yeah buddy, as they say… you wish.

Of course, we in New Zealand have our own twee story, one that needs no introduction; and if it needed a conclusion, it would have died in the 90s too. From the Chills to the Verlaines, all our indie pop heroes wear the badges of twee, but not the uniform. They might jangle, but they rarely shimmer. So, in light of that, we gratefully clasp our hands together for New Zealand’s first ever proper,real, Indie Twee Pop band. Okay, second.

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Download previous Awesome Feeling compilations:

Download: Awesome Feeling 5
Download: Awesome Feeling 6

One Comment

  1. Endsongs says:

    ‘Twee’ means whatever you want it mean I suppose but NZ did not have its own Twee story. No badge-wearers here that I can recall in the era you mention… certainly no-one aligning themselves with the UK genre (a label invented as a put-down by the music media but then adopted with defiance by some bands, as was ‘shoegaze’).

    The NZ bands named above were not ‘Twee’ nor even ‘twee’. Strummed jangly guitars with gentle, wavering vocals does not equal ‘Twee’. The Verlaines were too dark to be twee. The Chills were too fixated on 60s garage psychedelia to be twee. Sneaky Feelings were pretty sensitive but even they were not Twee. Look Blue Go Purple were women but were not Twee.

    Wearing cardigans & holding flowers is flirting with some visual cues that could be interpreted as ‘Twee’. Or it might just mean it’s cold in Dunedin and there are good op-shops (and gardens) there. I’m surprised anyone pays attention to what a drummer says about music – sober or drunk.

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