Turnstile – Glow On
Turnstile made a great album that both is rooted in hardcore but is also unrepentant in pushing it further.
Title: Glow On
Label: Roadrunner Records
Every year, I compile a list of my fave albums. And every year, I face the same problem because most of the albums I love are by new bands with not many listeners. That’s not some weird flex, it’s simply that I love hearing new music. Discovering a new band is the biggest thrill for me—new universes opening up. But amongst the new bands on the list who need exposure (and often get in touch to thank me) are huge, huge artists like, say, Gojira. Gojira have worked their way up from being quite niche in the Toxic Garbage Island days to mega-stupid-famous now. They’re not Bring-Me-daytime-radio yet but they soon might be. If I include them, if I write about them then I push another, less famous band out. A band who may need my tiny blog’s exposure far more than Gojira who are interviewed everywhere and every metalhead knows about already.
What does all this have to do with Turnstile? Well, you could make that same case for this here webzine. This space could be five new bands, bands who aren’t, like both Gojira and Turnstile, signed to a Warners subsidiary. Why have this Turnstile review at all? For this one simple reason:
They have made a fucking great album that both is rooted in hardcore but is also unrepentant in pushing it further.
If we abandon artists the second they get widespread acclaim then we become *that dude,* you know who I mean. I guarantee in your local scene there’s that one gatekeeper dude (and they are always, always male) who knew about any band before you. Who had a 7″ / flexi / cassette / wood carving of every band years before you did. Fucking years. Who rolls his eyes when you dare mention a band with more than three fans. And, hoo boy, does he hate Turnstile. A few years ago, he hated Stick To Your Guns. His equivalent two decades ago hated Eighteen Visions and Throwdown and sneeringly coined terms like ‘fashioncore.’ I know this to be true because I had to bear him telling me why I’d drawn my Xes wrong on my hands and how youth crew did this but so and so did that blah blah blah. Like a fucking priest in a fucking religion.
Don’t be that guy. Seriously.
I write reviews because I want people to go out and buy / stream that music. I want every band I write about to make music their full-time job, if that’s what their goal is. I want musicians to be paid for their labour, the same as every other worker. I celebrate the success of indie or hardcore or otherwise underground musicians breaking through. I celebrate the NEW PEOPLE they will attract to the scene who would never have heard about it otherwise. That’s a fucking win for me, not a loss. Because, surely, if you love a scene, you want other people to feel that joy, that camaraderie, you want it to grow and change and blossom? Don’t you?
Which is why I love Glow On.
The first time I listened to the album properly was with my mate Matt and we cackled as we shouted out what band we thought they were paying homage to on the currently playing track. COCTEAU TWINS! (“Alien Love Call”), OFFSPRING! (“Blackout”), DEVO! (“Humanoid / Shake It Up”). CIV! (“Don’t Play”) but the joke is that Turnstile take elements from throughout rock and pop and just do what the fuck they want with them. And this genre hopping is all in service to a honed, deft pop sensibility which means you’re never far from a catchy bit, whatever the microgenre being pillaged.
From the opening Raymond Scott synth arpeggio of “Mystery”, it’s obvious Turnstile are immersed in that most spicy of genres: WONKACORE. They come out of their punky shack and shakily fall over before leaping up with a smile and proceeding to murder every kid they can lay their hands on. With music. Whether you count this as their fourth or third album (I’m going with third, personally, Step 2 Rhythm was an EP, Spotify, wtf?), it’s playfulness that defines Turnstile. We expect the unexpected so, yeah, why not have a hardcore intro and then melt into a Spandau Ballet jam on “New Heart Design”? Fuck it!
But experimentation by itself means nothing. It’s piss-easy to make noise, to be arty. We can all roll ball bearings down some guttering and then growl over the top, being totally edgy and wow. The trick is to connect emotionally, to mean something. With Glow On, Turnstile expand on a restlessness you could first hear way back on “Can’t Deny It”. Yeah, they have the chops to churn out simulacra NYHC if they want to and keep the old men hxc gatekeepers happy (who are, ironically, all younger than me). That they have never chosen to do that is their strength: where is the revolution in reverence? How is it logical to make icons out of iconoclasts?
So, yeah, I am reminded of the end of “Bleach Temple” when I hear “Underwater Boi” but I also hear their progress and pursuit of something new. And that’s often a dangerous move to make in rock music in general, let alone punk, let alone hardcore. I mean, I am old, I do love that the start of “Don’t Play” reminds me of the energy of Circle Jerks’ “World Up My Ass” but I more love that it goes off into baile danceyness before, yes, a proper chuggathon. Who doesn’t love a good breakdown? We all do, if they’re framed with some novelty, the way that Turnstile frame them. We’ve all heard them badly done, when they’re as perfunctory as TV adverts.
Lyrically, Glow On speaks of isolation, community, joy, desolation. The easy guess would be that some pandemicness leaked in during the recording but I think it’s more meta than that; our plague fears have merely uncovered our long-suppressed underlying existential crises. That’s what a lot of the lyrics on Glow On feel like, a to-and-fro between the bleak and the redemptive:
You never feel it ’til you die from it
You never really feel it ’til you
A lot of the lyrics hit me hard and I can’t truly explain why. I know when I hear “Blackout”, it makes me tear up and it mystifies me. I love it but it’s a hard song to listen to. I guess as a musician myself, there’s something about that line:
And when you see me on the floor,
It’s just a part of my show.
Is maybe a little too close to home.
Glow On is a beacon and an honest one. It’s hope with truth, it’s a hand helping you up off the floor from someone who’s also been there themselves. It is beautiful and I can’t wait to see them live this weekend.
EDIT—I saw them live Saturday night at Rock City in Nottingham. Fuck me, they’re insanely good. You really got to see it live to get it.