Power pop was a thing that just never panned out for its artists or its fans. It rolled in, drafting behind car No. 2, new wave. And was punk rock's well-adjusted kid brother. A cross pollination of Brit Invasion, Brian Wilson and an army of tambourines.
Dwight Twilley was in the first class of retro-rock, a student of the game. How to rewrite pop
gems without turning breakfast into a soggy clump of Fruity Pebbles.
Twilley was an early riser a back-to-a-blueprint forged by The Flamin' Groovies, Brinsley Schwarz and Big Star, quick with three-minute turns about love, TV, losing love.
It works that way, a sun-kissed variation on universal themes that rings new bells in listener ears and was designed to survive on radio play, even three and 1/4 seconds in a snappy ad to sell a soft drink. But its main attraction was the paint-by-numbers efficiency of a record that carries its weight in near-perfect pop songs.
Dwight and partner Phil Seymour had been playing shows and home recording in Tulsa, Oklahoma since the late '60s, and they grew into each other. Multi-instrumentalists—Twilley played guitars and keys, and Phil did drums and bass—while their voices became one in unison or in the deceptively simple harmonies with which they layered their music.
In late 1974, the Dwight Twilley Band signed to Denny Cordell and Fellow Okie Leon Russell's Shelter record label and with little promotion garnered an infectious Top 20 single in '75 with "I'm on Fire," but had no album to back it up because the Shelter heads battled for months with lawyers and legalese. It was a tough break for the young band.
They recorded in England but were unhappy with the results, so they finished their debut long-player, Sincerely, back in Tulsa. Some tunes were recorded at Russell's home studio and Russell also played on a few of the songs.
The record hit in '76, nearly two years later then expected, and any buzz from "I'm on Fire" had long since faded. The album placed well outside of the Top 100 on the Billboard album charts, and thus it must've felt like a wasted effort, considering all the love and care they'd put into the project.
But those who did discover the album found a balanced and lovely homage to the halcyon days of songwriting—from its early Bee Gees vocals to the "You Were So Warm" Sun Records slap-back echo on the vocals, to the lyrics and the crafted approach to each harmony ... it's like you stepped into their home recording studio with headphones on, and each passage drips a sweet vulnerability while the southern sense of place refuses to become maudlin.
The foreboding guitar intro on the title song is so crisp you feel the pick against strings, as the injured lover spits out torn words: "And so you believe ..." The verse builds against minor chords until it stops and backwards guitars slide down the steps to a piercing bending of strings. Twilley stutters the third verse like Lennon or Bolan except it's uniquely Twilley (and Seymour), softly pulling tension from every breath.
I bought this album when it first came out and felt like I was in the last vestige of pure pop for real music lovers, who hear even the B-sides of this album and are left to wonder how did this artist go unnoticed by the masses? Bad luck for them, but Sincerely has been reissued several times with bonus tracks on each.