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A lot of bands were crawling out from the streets of Norway around the time Turbonegro formed, but none of them sported the same ideals, or even the
musicianship. Three-quarters of the bands claiming roots in Oslo were of death metal origins, a sound far from what was coming out of Turbonegro's guitars at the time of their inception. While it was obvious the band as a whole had a lot of metal influences, they seemed to distance themselves from it as much as
possible. Their sound was closer to the early hardcore emerging from CBGB's nearly ten years earlier - it was raw, emotional, and at times downright painful to listen to. Not that their sound was hard on the ears; that seems to be the furthest from the truth. The music these men produced was downright menacing, and it was obvious they were onto something very special.
The band released four studio albums (along with an unoffical album called "Helta Skelta," which was released in 1993, and a live album after their demise) in the last six years of their existence: the easily forgettable, more metallic sound of "Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives," which featured the band's original vocalist (Harry Neger, whose presence is not as memorable as his successor, Hank Von Helvete), who was present on the three records they recorded later on; 1994's lead-on classic "Never Is Forever;" 1997's unforgettable (their first with Euroboy on guitar) "Ass Cobra;" and "Apocalypse Dudes," which came shortly after they disbanded in late 1998.
The ground the band broke with their last album was staggering; it featured some of the most classic tracks in modern memory, including the blazing "Selfdestructo Bust," which to this day sounds as fresh as it did when it was first played for me. It seemed the band was at their pinnacle, yet like many other bands, drugs drove them to pursue other projects .. or that's just what we thought.
Whether that's the case or not, I'll never know. All I -do- know is that the band somehow resolved whatever problems they were going through and returned to release an album of all new material, which is slated for release later this month - and affectively titled "Scandinavian Leather." The album features the same fail-safe formula used on their last three studio albums, but seems to combine new tricks that the members have picked up after disbanding nearly five years ago. They've mastered the art of vocal harmony (but don't expect this to be some kind of emo record), the guitar solo, and it seems they've even built on the sound they helped resurrect (which most of the new wave of 70's revivalists seem to owe quite a bit of gratitude for), which makes them stand out from the many copycat bands that emerged over the last two years.
While the album is overall an immediate classic, there are of course songs that don't really stand out as much as the others. Tracks like "I Want It All" seem unncessary, even though their presence is still welcomed with open arms. However, "Train of Flesh," "Wipe It Til it Bleeds," and "Sell Your Body" easily claim the terms "brilliant" and "breathtaking" as if it were childsplay. The sound seems to deviate as the record goes along, which was a welcome surprise considering a band of this nature. "Drenched in Blood" sounds like nothing else Turbonegro spins on this record, or any other for that matter. But that doesn't make it any less infectuous or amazing - it's punk at it's finest, and I'm easily brought back to thoughts of Wire and Velvet Underground. The record ends with "Ride With Us," an amazing, blood-boiling track that shows the bands at their best - and making the listener beg for more. Sadly, they felt 13 tracks was enough, but I'm sure it was a good choice. While Turbonegro is one of the finest in their genre, there's not a doubt in my mind that their sound is tiring after long exposure, which is true of -any- band. But what seperates them from the masses is their ability to tell when the end should come, instead of dragging and dragging like many of their followers.
Turbonegro's return is a welcome one, and one that hopefully will not be forgotten. "Scandinavian Leather" is an instant necessity, and absolutely no one should be without this incredible gem.
Similar Artists: New Bomb Turks, The Hives, Wire, The Humpers