Review Summary: Masters of one.
Giant Flying Turtles are a Brooklyn, New York band who play a mix of… well, everything really. From prog-rock, funk, jazz, blues, surf and hard rock to influences from even more in between, the band certainly have the ability to rope in listeners from all areas.
On their latest album Waltz to the World
, Giant Flying Turtles tick off these different styles one by one. “No Turning Back” kicks off the album in quite terrific style, channelling an indie rock sound with some quite lovely harmonies. There is a strong sense of melody in this track, along with a wonderful vocal performance. It’s an exciting way to start off the album but “Stay Out Late” destroys the idea that Giant Flying Turtles might be a one-trick-pony with a bit of a reggae seeping into their sound. Things get even weirder as “The Devil and Me” comes out swinging (literally) and the band start to show that they are capable of covering just about any style. “One of a Kind” starts out reminiscent of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis before launching into a pure 70’s rocker. It’s one of the better tracks on the album despite the chorus perhaps being a little bit flat.
The albums begins to lose a bit of momentum at this point as “River Runs Dry” (a ballad), “Train Song” (hard rocker), and “Three Shades of Blue” (jazz/surf rock) keep the genre-hopping going but fail to really hit home with the songwriting. Things get a bit more interesting when “Hold the Flag” arrives, which is a piano ballad that sounds a bit like something that could have been on Pink Floyd’s The Wall
but unfortunately the worst song is still to come, as “Banjo” dabbles in honky-tonk and misses the mark completely. Luckily, two of the album’s best tracks finish the album off. “Good to Be Alive” returns somewhat to the prog-rock influenced sound the band is clearly best at and while it isn’t necessarily the best track on the album it is a pleasant return to more comfortable territory for Giant Flying Turtles. Likewise, the title track closes out the album with some nice atmospheric guitar work. It’s probably the best song since the first half of the album and it helps erase some of the steady decline in quality that came before it.
The biggest problem with Waltz to the World
is that the band are competent in so many different styles of music but masters of none (or rather, very few). A lot of the time it feels like Giant Flying Turtles want to present this vision of themselves as being super eclectic and strange but instead this just sounds like a compilation album; it has very little flow and this becomes frustrating rather quickly. With all that said, it is very clear that they are far more adept at some styles than they are with others, and this shows in the album’s indie and prog-rock influenced numbers. “No Turning Back”, “One of a Kind”, “Good to Be Alive”, and “Waltz to the World” are head and shoulders above the rest and the four of them on an EP would have made for a quite spectacular release.
As things stand, however, this is a great album but one with a few too many flaws and an overall lack of consistency. Not all of the genre excursions are failures but none of them really bring anything particularly special to the table either. Giant Flying Turtles are ones to watch for the future, as the high points on the record are very high indeed. Waltz to the World
is an album undoubtedly worth your time… but perhaps just skip to the good bits.