Review : Turbo Fruits - Butter
PitchforkOn their third album, Turbo Fruits offer ripping guitars and barroom aggression in service of throwback rock'n'roll. As the former Be Your Own Pet members told Rolling Stone, the album was recorded under the influence of Lil Wayne, 1970s soul, and Enya. Let that potpourri of sounds and influences simmer, because there's another thing you should know about Butter: Lyrically, it's an album of post-Garth Brooks country radio songs. There's no twang, over-glossy sentimentality, or patriotism-on-steroids flag waving. But while nothing here can be pegged as country sonically, their lyrics follow the same direct and literal "I'm telling a story and here's what happened beat-for-beat" frame of country radio at its most cliche. Which is not to knock an entire songwriting style-- there are obviously great songs that fit within that structure. These, however, are not great songs.
Here are the opening lines of "Don't Like to Fight": "Drinkin' Jack, getting lit/ Group of girls comin' up to us/ We could tell they was into it/ Saw a dude givin' dirty looks/ With his friend, talking shit/ Then a man came up to me and said/ 'Boy, you talkin' to the wrong chick.'" If that verse were an exception, the record could be saved, but predictability sets in hard. There's a song about gambling (called, ugh, "Gamble Tamble") that confidently overgeneralizes about "how the game is played." "Colt 45" is a song about shooting a man. There's a song about riding off on a motorcycle. Then we get to summer lovin', drinking, weed, cigarettes, and other carefree-but-edgy material. Their subject matter draws an easy comparison to another recent Nashville song, JEFF the Brotherhood's "Sixpack", but in this case, the good times aren't the celebratory focus-- they're props used to make egregious storytelling sound relatable, or worse, "badass."
What partially saves Turbo Fruits from their own lyrics is their knack for muscular riffs. Get past the words, and "Don't Like to Fight" is a rock'n'roll song worthy of Motörhead. It's got distorted guitars, muscle, and, yes, "the fight riff." Same deal with "Where the Stars Don't Shine", which was a ripping one-take live recording. They even manage to stick the landing on the instrumentation of their lighter fare, like the mellow jangle of "Gotta Get Along", the summertime balladry of "She Said Hello", and the swooning chorus on "Harley Dollar Bill$" (in case you thought there was only one awful song title). But to its detriment, it's easily the most hi-fi, slick-sounding album the band's put out, which strips away some of the ragged bite of their first two records. It's an intentional move; as the band's Jonas Stein told Billboard, "Man, we're ready to start being able to pay our bills. Our hope is that this record takes us to the beginning of that goal." Also worth noting: The band's polished new sound is housed on Kings of Leon's label.
With Butter, Turbo Fruits have offered a carefully honed caricature of themselves. They tell stories about bar fights, about gambling, about hitting the road, about drinking and smoking pot. And as if that picture still wasn't clear, right before the final track, you can hear producer Jim Eno (of Spoon) saying, "Yeah, we'll do a sober take tomorrow, guys." Because they're drunk! That's just how rebellious they are! They drink in the studio! But as Stein noted, all the "don't give a fuck" posturing wasn't reflected in the band's process: "I've never been more prepared for recording a record in my life. We had a no-mess, non-stop work ethic." Sadly, the hard work backfired. By aiming for so many different styles, settling for subpar-at-best lyrics, and trying to pay the bills with rock'n'roll, they never find a sound that's fully captivating or convincing....full text
ConsequenceofsoundWhen teenage punks Be Your Own Pet exploded onto the scene in 2005, their manic energy and wild reputation seemed so often summed up in vocalist Jemina Pearl’s occasional on-stage vomiting due to too much rambunctious bouncing (and perhaps attention0-seeking). While that’s certainly noteworthy, the band surrounding her seemed to get short shrifted attention-wise. Maybe that’s why side projects proliferated even before the band’s breakup, like Jamin Orrall’s early departure for JEFF the Brotherhood and guitarist Jonas Stein’s steadily gaining Turbo Fruits. Though only in his mid-20s, Stein has seen his share of both the high and low times — probably more of the former, considering the number of weed references in their catalog — and sounds appropriately grizzled on the Fruits’ new record, Butter, rife with road-weary warnings.
As the whiskey-soaked adrenaline buzz of “Where the Stars Don’t Shine” opens the album, the picture of Turbo Fruits playing at the back of a smoke-cloaked house party swirls into view. Matt Hearn’s rolling, thunderous fills and Stein’s fulminating riffs are surely keeping the party going, lubricating the attendees as much as the abundant cheap beer. But listen closely: It’s clear that things aren’t quite as freewheeling over in the corner. Despite much of the song sounding like a typical come-on, there are flashes of the uncertainty that comes past the college years. “Can you tell I’m a little scared?” Stein asks, admitting there’s something behind the swagger.
Relationships with women seem to be a particularly difficult area, as they’re almost always on the way out or already gone. Even when it’s something casual, Stein’s narrative is one of dilemma and danger. Over Kingsley Brock’s choppy waves of rhythm guitar, he explains that even when picking up a lady over cigarettes and whiskey, he’s not sure of his type and worried about who he’s exactly going to wind up with. “I’m trying real hard/ I’m holding my breath/ ‘Cause you never do know what you’re going to catch,” he sways. Though he refers to himself as the fisherman, the fear expressed in that chorus would suggest that the roles reverse to a certain degree. Even his favorite girl is long gone in “Sweet Thang”, and it’s driving him insane. Stein’s weary croon over the twinkling guitar lead and jumping bass evoke The Walkmen succinctly, and it’s a surprisingly heartfelt ballad from the dudes who wrote a song that shares its name with a brand of vaporizer.
When Stein tries on the leather jacket of the rough and tumble biker boyfriend on “Harley Dollar Bill$”, it doesn’t seem to fit the same way it does for the more traditional garage rocker. The talk of lovin’ your hog (“this motorcycle is my girl/ And I’m a motorcycle man”), the lightning riffs and Dave McCowen’s thumping bass sound as if they were aped from a ’60s bike-sploitation flick, practiced in front of the mirror for ages, but the escapism of the chorus (“I’m going to get away/ Leave my problems today”) better embodies the fantasy of the album....full text
PastemagazineThe persistence of “garage rock” as a modifier for the music of Turbo Fruits is troubling. These Nashville boys don’t make “garage rock” … they just make rock ‘n’ roll. The construction and execution of a song like “Gamble Tamble” is thoughtful and considered…the song just happens to kick ass. Granted, on stage, the visceral, manic energy of Turbo Fruits imbues their music with considerable amounts of loose-limbed and wild-eyed electricity, but “garage rock” it is not. Hell, there are moments where Jonas Stein’s vocals sound far more inspired by ’80s metal than by anything that ever appeared on Crypt Records.
The same thing happened to Stein’s former band, Be Your Own Pet, and, just like with BYOP, as this band’s sound evolves beyond its earliest, spazziest tendencies, they also seem headed toward more and more normative-sounding rock ‘n’ roll. There are zero surprises on Butter, but there needn’t be any; the loping grooves and forceful riffs find Stein and the rest of the Fruits laying out archetypal sounds while injecting plenty of personality. Whether on the Southern-surf-rock of “Colt 45” or the power-pop verses of “Harley Dollar Bill$,” the band’s casual charm and rough edges make the album a joy to listen to. An unchallenging, unsurprising, and un-garage-y joy, but a joy nonetheless....full text
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