After a four-year breakup due to "religious differences," Oslo, Norway's Turbonegro are back with a vengeance with Scandinavian Leather, their fifth and best studio album.
Picking up where 1998's Apocalypse Dudes left off, Scandinavian Leather is a fiery cocktail of metallic riffs, punk speed, glam pomp and prog rock indulgence. Mixing elements of Alice Cooper, AC/DC and the Stooges with black metal, power pop and arena rock, Turbonegro have concocted an unbelievably fantastic album, a spotless 13-song tour de force that lays to waste every other record I've heard this year, last year and likely next year.
After the proggy intro "The Blizzard Of Flames" the band goes for the throat with the opening "Wipe It 'Till It Bleeds" and sets the standard for the rest of the album. Launching out of the gate with a monster riff courtesy of ace guitarist Euroboy, "Wipe It 'Till It Bleeds" features all the elements that make this band so great, crunching guitars, poppy vocals, hilarious lyrics and steamroller rhythms. It's metal for punks who hate metal, punk for heshers who hate punk, and/or goth-glam for too-cool scenesters who hate the trappings of all of the above.
"Gimme Some" and "Turbonegro Must be Destroyed" carry on in the punkier tradition set by their third album, Ass Cobra, adding some Motorhead fury to the cock rock shenanigans, while "Remain Untamed" and "Train of Flesh" are blitzkrieg anthems through and through, the kind Dave Mustaine might write if he loosened up a little and sang about fuckin' instead of politics.
But what makes this band so special is their ability to add crisp pop sheen to an otherwise pummeling sound. Check out the Motley Crue meets Dictators stomp of "I Want Everything," the Cheap Trick meets Ramones gloss of "Drench In Blood," or the leather-clad, sadistic French punk stylings of "Le Saboteur" for proof that there ain't a better band in existence right now.
Yet the real question here is can a band that dresses in all denim, wears makeup, light fireworks out of their ass cracks (well, singer Hank Von Helvete does anyway), has a Sailor named Happy Tom on bass, and flirt with S&M and gay themes yet are manly enough to scare the piss out of you of in a dark alley, possibly make it in America? They are already HUGE in Europe, but is all this just too much for us Yanks? Can we possibly digest such a bitter pill in the face of too-easy-to-define rockers like Creed, too easy to fuck divas like Brittney, and too-lame-to-rock fakes like Sum 41? It's like asking why do Lizzy Maguire movies and Avril Whateverthefuckhernameis CDs rake in millions here while David Lynch films and Iggy Pop albums wallow in obscurity? Some shit is just too cool for the U.S. I guess, right?
Well, hopefully the two singles off Scandinavian Leather will change all that, as they contain enough hooks to catch a sea of Salmon yet rock hard enough to make it to modern alternative rock radio. "Fuck The World" takes some Cooperisms, adds some "Gimme Danger" Iggy appeal and manages to be both a ballad and a rocker at the same time. It's a lighter-in-the-air fist-pumper yet features a full orchestra and could rival Queen for sheer heartattack bombast. When Hank says he wants to "fuck the world" it sounds less like a political manifesto and more like a sexual threat, which is a welcome retreat in this day and age of 911-inspired preaching. Meanwhile, the pro male-prostitution anthem "Sell Your Body (To The Night)" takes another Motley-style riff and drenches it in gutter sleaze and rough sex, making for one helluva blast in the face. A hooky-as-fuck chorus wraps around some headbanging verses before careening into a moshpit friendly double-time coda. The result? About 3 ½ minutes of pure guilty pleasure. Is hard rock finally coming back? Yep, it just happens to be clad in demin, wearing a cape and top hat, and is eyeing both your little brother and older sister. Creepy, eh?
And if all this talk of sex and sleaze is making you uneasy or doubtful of the true rock power of Turbonegro than I dare you to skip ahead to the closing track, "Ride With Us," and turn it up to 11. This songs demon-strates exactly why this band is so devastating. It's as evil as any church burning Norwegian has ever been, as anthemic as anything to come out of the '80s, as punk as any of these so called garage rock revivalist, and features a fuckin' flute through a wall of Marshall stacks for christsakes!!! Jethro Tull be damned, these guys take Hawkwind power-prog sound into realms previously unknown and still manage to sound like the baddest rock band on the block.
Always indulgent, never wasteful, Turbonegro know how to balance their influences and still come out as innovators, never imitators. Don't let the Alice Cooper eye makeup fool ya and don't let the bulges in their pants scare you. This is the real deal, folks. They could be the biggest band in the world, they could flop in a blaze in glory, but either ways it's gonna be as interesting to watch as it is exciting to listen to. Buy this album or be crowned King Idiot of the year. It's your choice.