LEBANON: Twisted Times - Pindoll
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
A promising debut, with much to commend it and many catchy, fun tunes
Over the many, many albums we have found, listened to, pored over, reviewed on the course of this project, there are several types or categories of album that we have identified. Twisted Times by Lebanese indie rockers Pindoll falls into one such category, which is the ambitious, raw, yet slightly underdeveloped debut album. A previous example of this would be Plastic Words by Afghan rock band Kabul Dreams, where Danny identified a certain lack of precision and experience in their playing – wholly understandable considering their fascinating back story and how they came to record their first album. Once again, we are in similar territory with Pindoll. I like this album. It is a good album with several catchy rock tunes, mixing in an indie sensibility with jazz inflections. But more than that, it is a promising album, an album that in and of itself is fun and enjoyable, but considering what they try to do, not all of which is successful, it makes me interested to see what they will do next. Pindoll, based in Beirut, built up a following in their native city and four years after their formation they released Twisted Times in 2014. Six years on, there appears to be nothing forthcoming from them, and to be honest, I am not even sure if they are still working together as a musical project. It would be a shame if that is all Pindoll were to put out into the world, as I believe a follow up album could have been even stronger. That said, if this is all we’re getting, well, then it’s not a bad testament to their skills and musical abilities.
“ Jazz rock can be a mess, quite frankly – I don’t find the no-nonsense gut-punch of rock music goes that well with the intricate stylings of jazz (though there are notable exceptions) – so when it is done with such a lightness of touch as we see here, I do enjoy it.”
I always admire a band that tries to do a lot of different things. It can be easy to stick in a particular mode that you know well, and churn out album after album. AC/DC, one of my favourite bands, does this, and I adore them for it. That said, there is of course something to be said for a more adventurous album, and especially when that is a debut album, I find it to be commendable. Jazz rock can be a mess, quite frankly – I don’t find the no-nonsense gut-punch of rock music goes that well with the intricate stylings of jazz (though there are notable exceptions) – so when it is done with such a lightness of touch as we see here, I do enjoy it. The opening track is maybe the jazziest number, aided immensely by lead singer Erin Mikaelian’s dreamy, sultry vocals in the middle section, and yet it is first and foremost a rock song, with its roots in influences such as The Strokes or Oasis. The jazz is always a light influence here, and though it works, perhaps could have been felt more strongly in some places.
The title track leans far more on the rock aspect of their style, and is one of the best songs alongside Where Dreams Are, a powerful song that reminds me of Pearl Jam and other grunge acts from the 1990s. It is also one of the few songs on the album that has any discernible influence from its Levantine location – listening to those guitar riffs and drum beats you can’t help but feel that they’ve come directly from the shared Lebanese heritage of oud music. And yet, while enjoyable, while admirable for the fusion they have successfully attempted there is something lacking in this album. It could be that at 33 minutes long, it is too short to have had a full impact that it maybe needed, or maybe its that the band themselves need to grow and develop and become more sure-footed in their abilities. There’s a lot to like here, namely radio-friendly choruses and riffs, jazz-oriented drums and rhythms, and influences from their region, but it never fully comes together as a world-beating piece, but that’s a tall order for any band on their first attempt. It is good. It shows promise. I hope one day we will get to see that promise realised.