This news burst onto my feed earlier last week:
Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Chromatics and Johnny Jewel are involved with the new season of Twin Peaks
And it got me super excited for the long awaited reboot of the cult classic 90s show by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks.
Ruth Radelet, Johnny Jewel, and the rest of Chromatics will be joining the cast of the hit cult show when it makes its return on Showtime this coming summer.
The announcement came via Echo Park Records‘ label head Alexis Rivera via an image shared on Twitter. The photo showed the iconic senior photo of the deceased Laura Palmer made famous when the show originally debuted. The photo sat atop shattered copies of Chromatics’ Dear Johnny, their oft teased follow up to their 2012 LP Kill For Love.
I immediately pulled out my copy of Kill For Love on vinyl, a sweet double LP on white wax, and gave it a spin.
Kill For Love (2012)
Longtime favorites have included the title track, “These Streets Will Never Look The Same”, “Lady”, and a cover of Neil Young’s “Into The Black”.
However, what caught my attention this time around was the quiet and dreamy “Running From the Sun”:
It’s easy to hear the Twin Peaks appeal here, and it’s pretty sweet that they’ll actually be cast members (along with other musicians including Sharon Van Etten, Sky Ferreira, Au Revoir Simone and, of course, the original Roadhouse singer Julee Cruise).
One thing I’ve always found fascinating about Chromatics is how different their sound is now from that of their origins. The Italo-disco of today is a far cry from the arty new wave garage punk of their pre 2005 yesterday.
And that’s where it began for me.
But, before we jump to those early releases, it’s important to note that the transformation followed a consistent slew of iterations in the lineup of Chromatics, most predominantly after each of their first two releases, Chrome Rats (2003) and Plaster Hounds (2004), that left guitarist Adam Miller as the sole original member.
The face we see of Chromatics today, most predominantly Ruth Radelet and Johnny Jewel, weren’t even in the picture until 2005. And it is with their joining of the band that Chromatics found the sound you find so familiar today.
Plaster Hounds (2004)
I’m not sure which came to my collection first, 2004’s Plaster Hounds or 2003’s Chrome Rats Vs. Basement Ruts. They may have joined in unison.
It was a year or so after their original releases, say 2005 or 2006. Definitely pre Night Drive (2007). At the time, I would buy on a whim. And, being on sale at the time, I figured What the heck!?
What I do recall is immediately being struck by the guitar riffs and original guitarist Adam Miller’s vocals on “Garden”. Here he blends new wave, garage rock, art rock and post punk for a sound of which, at the time, I just couldn’t get enough.
Plaster Hounds is so dramatically different from what would follow even three years later that it is essentially unrecognizable as the Chromatics of today. Not only did you have songs that zeroed in on post punk, like “Garden” above, you also had it paired next to super art rock songs like “Jesus”:
Plaster Hounds was definitively Miller on vocals.
Chrome Rats Vs. Basement Ruts
Then, there’s the 2003 LP Chrome Rats Vs. Basement Ruts. And here’s what’s interesting. Both Plaster Hounds and Chrome Rats were also (again, aside from Miller) two entirely different bands. Where the second proper LP was predominantly Miller on guitar and vocal duties, their true debut under Chromatics (originally The Vogue) actually saw vocals split by Blood Brothers’ Johnny Whitney take lead.
Whitney wasn’t the only on vocals; soon-to-be Gossip drummer Hannah Blilie would hit the mic on “Hannah’s Song”.
Fast Forward to Twin Peaks
So, historically, Chromatics prove to be one of the more interesting bands out there in terms of member changes and transformations. Lineup changes are common, but typically follow the vocal figurehead.
Take Band Of Horses, for example. That band has modified its lineup seemingly countless times, but at the center has always been frontman Mat Brooke.
The approach by Chromatics was drastically different. While Miller is the constant, Radelet and Jewel are the new face, backed by Miller and Nat Walker. Their music, throughout each new release, be it a single or a full-length LP, has actually been really quite good.
When they announced their fifth proper LP in 2014, Dear Johnny it promised more of the sound we heard on Night Drives and Kill For Love. “Shadow”, heard below, has a blatant Twin Peaks style of sound that will lend itself brilliantly to the show.
“Shadow” was among the teaser tracks released with mention of Dear Johnny.
And with it, their sound is now cemented, and while–like with everything–there will be differences from even those two releases, the commonalities will be fully recognizable as Chromatics.
Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Chromatics and Johnny Jewel are involved with the new season of Twin Peaks pic.twitter.com/RHpx1SrEVd
— Alexis Rivera (@echoparkrecords) March 7, 2017
And, with the announcement of the band joining the ranks of musician-actors in the new Twin Peaks reboot, the smart marketing play would be to finally release the long-awaited LP in proximity to the show. So that’s my prediction; keep an eye out for Dear Johnny…it’s more likely than not that we’ll see a release date around the time Kyle MacLachlan once more takes the screen as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.