This review was first
published on CLUAS in 2000
Other albums reviewed in 2000
Kells' most interesting cultural export since, uh, that book
At last, Turn the Dublin based band but Kells born and bred (well, two of them anyway), release their debut longplayer. And it's well worth the wait. A mini album 'Check My Ears' preceded the release of 'Antisocial' and it was an appetiser of the tastiest proportions. A superlative clutch of giddy seven inches that first introduced us to this fine band, 'Check My Ears' was a worthy statement of intent. However compare to it 'Antisocial' reveals a different Turn appear. Now a three-piece following the hush-hush departure of keyboardist/vocalist Fiona Melady, Turn are still one of the country's finest live acts.
Motormouth Ollie Cole is an endearing and charismatic frontman. A man who for some strange reason has been compared to JJ72's irksome Mark Greaney. But hey, other way round folks. Where the amateurish Greaney, ahem, excels in causing pain to even the hardest of ears, Cole comes across as the consummate pro. A bit of a nudge-nudge twist here, a knowing disparity there and an obvious drinker when he writes, he conjures up a brighter side of life than Greaney could ever hope to imagine. Sure on the slower "numbers" he, like Greaney, can be a tad irksome but there's that certain magic in the voice that carries through. As a guitarist there's traces of a heavy metal upbringing that led into a dark indie patch. Combine both and add a suit and you've got one of Irish rocks most charismatic figures. Add in the class the top of the range drumming of Ian Maledy and the low slung hard-hitting bass of Gavin Fox and you could very well have saviours of Irish rock in the making.
Charismatic and exuberant performers, their stage image (vintage suits, waistcoats, country squire ties) and stage presence is second to none. They were one of the undoubted highlights of this years inaugural Witnness festival, even if they were on at breakfast time. Thankfully their live power has transferred onto the trusty longplayer format. The suits and between song banter didn't, which in a way is a mixed blessing.
The album perfectly translates the myriad of influences at play with Turn. From the chirpy pop leanings of T Rex (Queen Of My Heart: choc-full of "yeah yeah yeah's) to the darker, more broody meanders into bar room isolation and Nick Cave territory (the first three minutes of 'These Three Words' for example) Antisocial touches base with every trick in the Turn deck. Of the early singles only 'Beretta' makes it. 'Facedown' didn't which is a shame but they print the lyrics to it on the booklet which is nice. 'Queen of my Heart' is the obvious next single; their last, 'Too Much Make Up' opens the album in blistering style, and it's as near to the old Turn as you can get. A giddy anthemic rocker it works better live than on record but it's still a bold opening to 'Antisocial' - a "dirty-oul-drunken-sex" song of the dirtiest calibre it's probably the weak link on an otherwise faultless album. Yep it's a great single but as an opening gambit? Hmmm.
The title track is Turn at their best, a slowish crackle burns through it and when the band let rip it's a magic moment. Gav and Anne sounds a tad too similar to Kula Shaker's "Shower Your Love" for these ears but an earthy acoustic foot tapper like it will be hard to find elsewhere this year. After We Go is another from the isolated bar room category and as a meditation on life, death and, er, "wanting it that way" it's a sombre country-esque muse that would fit into a Jubilee Allstars album with ease. Words brings it all back to catchy chorus land and machine gun drumming breaks, an unforgiving slo-burning 'Tired Love Song' is a crescendo of 'Facedown' intensity and the album closes in anthemic "let's see those cigarette lighters" form with 'I Still Believe'.
Overall, Antisocial hints at a very, very bright future for Turn. They can still, to quote Ollie Cole on stage at Witnness, "rock like a motherf*cker" but the (a dreaded word this next one) maturity that's on display in spades with 'Antisocial' suggests that things are blooming in Irish rock. Recommended.