bar italia Are Out for Blood on 'The Twits'

BY Anthony BoirePublished Nov 2, 2023

Not content with only releasing their nervy Matador debut Tracey Denim this year, bar italia venture into fuzzy, clanging britpop on their second album of 2023, capping off an already fantastic year with The Twits.

Originally emerging in London on Dean Blunt's World Music label, the band's sound was sweaty, trip-hop accented single-coil guitar work, featuring wildly different vocal styles from all three members — they put these elements to use over the course of Tracey Denim, leaning into their now-trademark three-act song structure. Lyrically, each member of bar italia —  Nina Cristante, Sam Fenton and Jezmi Fehmi — have tended to trade in poignant nostalgia, late night confessionals and hit-or-miss attempts at silliness. 

However, things shift in a more direct, confrontational way on The Twits. While the band's debut was the soundtrack to a conversation in a smoke-soaked London cafe, The Twits is a passenger's argument yelled over the revving engine of an Aston Martin as it speeds through the UK countryside. The guitars are explosive, the drums burst with energy, and there's a genuine risk of danger this time around. 

"I wasn't paying attention / And now I see what's wrong," Cristante croons on the woozy "Shoo." The track trades in acoustic guitars and swelling, fuzzbox feedback with equal abandon, a noisier approach that appears again and again across The Twits – there are a few massive shoegaze anthems like "worlds greatest emoter," and while comparisons to Blur and other '90s Britpop legends are inevitable, bar italia add a dangerous urgency to the mix. 

The vocal trade-offs in "worlds greatest emoter" are a masterclass in showmanship, as with each verse, the performances ascend higher and higher until the song just cuts off. Vocalists exchange insults seemingly directed at each other, taking on characters mid-bicker. These are nocturnal mini-dramas playing out over three to four minutes, inviting the listener to their wee-hours verbal clashes. They accuse each other of shortcomings on "Hi fiver" — "You act like a baby / Cause you feel insecure," Cristante spits after the boys have snarled back-and-forth for the previous verse. Swarmed by heavy guitars, "'Cause you're just not worth the time / You're too scared, too immature," sounds like a barb from a coked-up breakup. 

It's only on the last three songs, and especially on the powerful "Jelsy," that bar italia turn down the heat to a simmer once again. There are half-hearted attempts at resolution and assurances that these characters are better apart — "Don't you see that being alone can be good for you?" — but the performances smack of barely concealed unease and uncertainty. 

Sounding more adversarial than ever, highlights like the cantankerous "Real house wibes (desperate house vibes)" and "worlds greatest emoter" are a convincing case for a gothic, pleading version of bar italia – bringing a wild desperation to their typically laid-back, detached sound. It's not as immediately trance-inducing as their debut, but The Twits finds the band in a newly roiling, bellicose state of transformation. 
(Matador Records)

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