A flame adorns the cover. You can neither grasp it, nor warm yourself by it, nor be bathed in it’s light. It is a flat object, an image of a real thing on glossy paper. So, that’s the band, right? Yeah, pretty much. I remember a Top Of The Pops from the late nineties, whichever dingus was presenting back then introduced a new band called Turin Brakes. A slightly overweight, average looking man sitting on a stool with a guitar appeared. He proceeded to play “Underdog (Save Me)”. A startlingly high pitched and elastic voice with a touch of melancholy coupled with folk-influenced acoustic pop instrumentation. A big hit, played many times on both radio and television. And from this, the band known as Turin Brakes made a life-time following. They have proceeded by releasing seemingly the same album over and over again. Perhaps the average, slightly overweight man holding a guitar that appeared on TOTP in fact decided to only make average bland music for the rest of his and his band’s career.
“Gotta keep both feet on the ground” (Last Chance), “I keep waiting and waiting/I don’t care how long it takes.” (Ghost), “What’s on the other side of the world?” (Other Side), “I wanna be an old man” (Other Side), “I know it’s too late” (For The Fire), “This is what I should’ve been/But instead I waste my time” (Timewaster), “Here comes the moon to pacify” (Here Comes The Moon).
Are these lines too out of context? Some of them, maybe. But what we see here is the average man (Olly Knight) and his mate (Gale Paridjanian) stating a bunch of useless thoughts. Inward-looking and self-serving wanderings. And maybe that is fine in other artist’s work, but here there is a real sense of staring at a white wall. Of staring at a white wall and then describing that wall. Perhaps the wall is Olly’s life. Perhaps it is Gale’s life. But it is most definitely a wall that is white and they are most definitely describing it.
Why the hell should a person subject themselves to something so passive, so banal, so compromised? Well, I think a person should define themselves against this music, they should say to themselves “this is the opposite of creativity, this is the opposite of inspiration, this is the nadir of life, this is a prozac, this is a dull stare from the mirror, this is shit.” It is, in fact, wonderful that this album exists, this band exists. It throws the music you love into the sharpest of clarity, the harshest of tinnitus, the most glorious of colour. It makes me, personally, grin fiercely every time I think about The Minutemen or The Appleseed Cast or Otis Redding or Crowded House or Kathryn Williams. Sure, you can take that as me establishing my own sense of self-satisfaction and superiority. It wouldn’t be true, though. What I’m trying to say is slightly complicated and not entirely clear to even me, but let me try: Turin Brakes’ new album makes you appreciate all the music that you, out there reading this, already love. It reaffirms your connection with the world and the works of other human beings, it re-invigorates your passion for music. It does this by being utterly bland.
I suppose I can see how this review might come across as a snotty yoof sticking his middle finger up. Maybe you really enjoy Turin Brakes (whatever age you are), even think this album is their best yet. Well that is good, it obviously strikes a chord with something inside you. It is always good when someone finds art that they can relate to and which even makes their life better. I cannot share the same sentiments.