The ’90s are back. Tribute nights to the decade of the Gap are popping up everywhere; Matchbox 20 is touring with the Goo Goo Dolls, and Boston-based Little War Twins kick off their album Marvelous Mischief with “One Bottle”— recalling the coiled-up intensity of fellow Bostonians and ’90s icons The Pixies before settling into a Ani DiFranco-esque easygoing folk-swing backbeat, but unfortunately falling a little short of both.
Little War Twins’ vocalist Gaetano Brown owes a lot to DiFranco, the singer-songwriter who many consider the poet laureate of the ’90s — her voice and lyrics evoking the smell of patchouli and feminism at your favorite coffee shop (before Starbucks closed it down). Derivative or not, however, Brown has a voice worth listening to.
Musically the Twins, self-described as “folk-renegade mystics,” tread similar agit-folk territory, made somewhat more interesting with slight jazz flourishes; Twins’ drummer, “Trick,” obviously has experience playing around the beat. Overall, Little War Twins’ studio recordings suffer from poor production quality, keenly exposing the difference between lo-fi and low budget and placing them firmly in the “local band” category.
And that’s unfortunate, because live performance is obviously what Little War Twins throw their energy into. Where they are limply “buzz band” folk-rock on their records, their live sound is stronger — and edgier, with Gaetano showing some charismatic stage presence in songs like “Shake it Bali Hai,” with her backing band giving energetic performances. (Is the bass player wearing a rabbit mask?)
Little War Twins play 8:30 pm Friday, April 12, at Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove; $5.