This Turnstile Album Sucks—Why Can’t I Stop Listening To It?
Posted on April 19, 2016
Turnstile’s 2015 LP Nonstop Feeling opens with a decidedly retro-sounding record scratch, followed by a mission statement of sorts: If feeling is what they want, OH YEAH, feeling is what they get!
The opening track (“Gravity”) then begins in earnest, with thunderous drums, and ploddingly heavy, ultimately repetitive riffs. Vocalist Brendan Yates then enters the fray, exhibiting a hip-hop influenced yelp that’s half Perry Farrell, half Fred Durst. Distant, lower backup vocals that wouldn’t sound out of a place in a 311 song fade in and out. Then, at the 2:40 mark, the song abruptly shifts into a driving, conventional breakdown before ending. What the fuck?
“Drop” and “Fazed Out” are more conventionally structured, fiery hardcore anthems, even if the latter includes a shoehorned guitar solo in which even the production appears to throw side-eye at every overwrought ’80s thrash ballad, but “Can’t Deny It” is where the goofiness really begins to manifest itself. Yates scream-raps like a kid who just discovered Blood Sugar Sex Magik in the verses, then those 311 backups reappear in the chorus. With the band locked into a deep groove behind him, Yates screams, ‘Oh yeah/ Just like that/ Gimme just a little bit of nonstop feeling!’ This is stupid. Why am I suddenly poolside? Why did I just hit repeat?
Then there’s “Blue By You.” That’s actually Nick Hexum on vocals, there, isn’t it? Don’t try to fool me, Turnstile. That song then segues into “Out of Rage,” which begins with an austere bass line reminiscent of Alice In Chains’ “Would?” and navigates toward a Rage Against The Machine-styled breakdown, heavy on grooves but seemingly light on substance. It…it uh, it rocks. “Love Lasso” is an organ-heavy, instrumental interlude to closer “Stress,” where guitars screech, vocals echo and our JNCO jeans get caught in our BMX bike chains just like it’s 1997.
The more visceral, riff-centric moments that adorn Nonstop Feeling feel ripped from bands who did it better, and first, and most importantly, when this brand of hardcore was more in vogue. Just about every song here contains them in one form or another, to be clear; what’s obviously more interesting are the moments when Turnstile color outside the lines, taking just about doofy, mostly dormant rock stereotype from our youths and gleefully reviving them, daring us as listeners to either confront our dark pasts as squares who were dropped off at ClearChannel-branded “weenie roasts” by their parents or just turn it off without being caught humming the riffs later. The band’s love for this music, erratic as it is, seems earnest, and though it would be arguably more interesting if they were being intentionally subversive, if Nonstop Feeling were a litmus test for the lengths hardcore kids are willing to go in the name of spinkicks and floorpunches. But there’s more than enough hacky irony to go around already, isn’t there?
Maybe it’s that earnestness that’s appealing. At the very least, it’s an interesting thought experiment: A lot of us liked this stuff when we were kids, then found punk or whatever and became “too cool,” but with Nonstop Feeling, Turnstile seems to be asking if we ever were actually too cool for any of this, or if we’ve just been poseurs all along. There’s some sort of difficult to pinpoint, inherent can’t-look-away-ness to some of the places Turnstile take their sound. The band appear to exist without confines, which hardcore—especially male-centric hardcore—sorely needs, but is their Hexumgonal take on it an anomaly or truly the initial swell of the genre’s new wave?
Nonstop Feeling hopscotches genres, recycles ’90s rock tropes previously thought unrecyclable, and the band grin ear to ear throughout all of it. Turnstile dare to be stupid, or at least confront what they, and we, initially thought as stupid. And against all odds, it works. This is the first important album of hardcore’s post-irony era. It may truly be all downhill from here.