Even a preliminary glance makes it clear that Nova Twins are trying to do a whole lot in a very short space of time on this debut album. The much-maligned setup of a fuzzed-out rock duo isn’t usually the birthing ground of the exciting, boundary-pushing sound they’ve taken a stance towards producing, and having that come from two black women is a blatant flip of where the focus in rock music has been fixated on for years, if not decades. But among a paradigm that does seem to be shifting and widening in breadth on all fronts, the opportunity for Nova Twins to leave their mark couldn’t come at a better time, especially with a co-sign from Fever 333’s Jason Butler to fully hammer home how much excitement this duo have within them. Of course, almost consistently strong reports from touring and festival appearances have made that clear already, and that all comes together as one monstrously auspicious springboard for Who Are The Girls? to launch Nova Twins into the heights of British rock breakthrough territory.
When it comes to the album itself though, it’s easy to get the impression that Nova Twins aren’t far from hitting those peaks, but there’s still work for them to do nonetheless. The raw materials are certainly here – this is a band with a fantastically distinct sound and the swagger and confidence to run for absolute miles – but they’ve not quite fashioned it in a way can hold for longevity, at least right now. As the brusque, brash hit to herald the arrival of a new force to take notice of, Who Are The Girls? resoundingly succeeds, but it still does feel like a debut all the same, and the growing pains do still show.
To say any of that drags this album down significantly, though, would be hugely unfair to a sound that definitely feels like a necessary and contemporary update of garage-rock that’s become so tiresome at this point. It’s more impressive to learn of Nova Twins’ eschewing of synths here, and how tones like the thunderous surge of Vortex or the head-caving low-end of Not My Day come from a bass and guitar that tweaks and modifies a typically limited setup to get a much richer and more powerful range of sounds from it. Granted, limitations haven’t magically been swept aside, and stripping things down as much as Nova Twins do means that they aren’t going quite as far out as they could (and when they do, the results come in the woozy shrillness of Ivory Tower that’s a lot less appealing), but for now anyway, there’s enough here to go on. As far as debauched rock ‘n’ roll power goes, Nova Twins can deliver that in spades; a booming groove is never too far away, and with the distinct hip-hop flair that’s fed into a track like Bullet, there’s a litheness and inherent coolness that most duos try to fall into but rarely succeed. Here, Nova Twins actually feel like the big rockstars they’ve primed themselves to, and with a vocalist like Amy Love who has indelible range plugged in to an unmistakable level of personality, the mantle of loud, unashamedly brash rock music seems to be in safe hands overall.
Brashness is the key word here as well, as Who Are The Girls?’s big statements undoubtedly come from the bravado and swagger that Nova Twins exude so regularly. With as much as this album consists of bounding declarations of music domination like on Taxi and Bullet, it can’t be overstated that Nova Twins are doing it on their own terms, emphasising a ruthless efficiency on Not My Day and Lose Your Head, but also an embrace of their own lack of conventionality and weirdness on Vortex and Athena. Admittedly that’s a rather narrow thematic gamut, especially for a new band, and it’s what highlights the general short-lived-ness of Nova Twins at this stage; in short bursts, they’re capable of real breakneck thrills with the potential to take them far, but they still need to do more with them to reach there. Those broader spaces are fine for the time being, particularly while Nova Twins are embracing their own broadness in their writing, but it’s difficult to extrapolate much further from them, and that’s made rather explicit even at this early stage.
But for a new band trying to edge into a side of rock that favours those bigger sensibilities, Who Are The Girls? is doing more than most, at least as far as sonic vibrancy and power goes. This is the sort of rock album that doesn’t outstay its welcome and throws out plenty of ideas while it’s around, and for Nova Twins to practically bleed confidence in the way they do is already pretty impressive. It could be co-opted into something with a bit more thematic depth and colour, especially as they do move forward, but that’s generally something that comes with time and natural evolution. The signs are already pointing to that being the case given that Nova Twins are doing so much with what they have, and when they get there, the potential for greatness goes without saying. And going off this evidence, that’ll be the case far sooner than later.
For fans of: Black Futures, Vukovi, Strange Bones
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Who Are The Girls?’ by Nova Twins is released on 28th February on 333 Wreckords Crew.