When the 13 tracks of Fixed, the second full-length from Chapel Hill's Twilighter, tick to a close, the only thing that really matters is the pungent, bitter aftertaste of the last two takes: The couplet starts with "Coffee & Pills," which builds in five minutes from a solo somnambulant bassline to dual guitar solos where strings act like flints, setting sparks that send frontman Brandon Herndon's chemical ways into flames. For the first minute, a thin guitar chases the melody, a simple rhythm cautiously cantering as Herndon serves his own dejection notice: "Coffees and pills and lovers, tea and drugs/ pass the time/ But the bad shit never leaves/ in the morning." The second verse repeats the first, except when it's over this time, things get nasty. After verse one, the chorus simply steers to verse two. Here, it takes a hard left, veering from the road and letting the guitar solos—glimpses of feedback and fistfuls of scraped strings—incinerate.
Herndon appropriately checks out for most of the closing track, "Pick Up." Sonar Strange's cold, distant voice bears equal touches country and goth, and—over a simple, chorded electric guitar—she takes the lead here, singing about a scene that surrounds her cracking from within: "I keep my headphones on/ Try to forget about it/ The underground caving in/ On the band houses."
These two tracks shape what since has become the swan song for the incarnation of Twilighter that recorded Fixed. Only founder Herndon and bassist Josh Sokal remain in the new band (now a quartet with Dave Perry and Tony T. Raver), but Fixed exceeds in taking the thematically curious band that debuted for 2004's Fortune Is On and forming an alloy with confidence. On Fixed, Twilighter becomes a rock band pairing Sonic Youth and The Violent Femmes on "It Can't Stay This Way," perfecting nervy Television pacing on "Being There," and flaunting Loaded Velvet Underground in Herndon's most quixotic, flippant vocal passes. Twilighter is playful and solemn, slipshod and tight. Too bad they couldn't stay together: At least Herndon, who sounds like a stronger bandleader here, still continues.
Twilighter plays Hell Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 9 p.m.