Review Summary: An album to both kick and shake ass toGlow On
is basically what Time & Space
tried to be. The Baltimore band's second album was hardcore punk at its heart, with alt metal linings and choruses that were dangerously crossing the pop border. What was most remarkable, however, was the band's dual capacity to innovate and not let these innovations enough space to breathe. Indeed, Time & Space
had many great ideas - like inviting a Lauryn Hill backup singer - but it never let these become more than cool ideas - like inviting a Lauryn Hill backup singer, but only for twenty-four seconds.
With Glow On
, they allow these ideas to become fully fleshed-out songs.
Not that the foundations are all shaken; the band's formula of gripping choruses over thrashy riffs is still very much present. What has changed is that these pit-opening antics are also now the theatre of shoegaze, R&B, and even alt rock - oh damn, that again? I had enough of 90s alt rock after listening to Infinite Granite
- yet the band’s intensity and hardcore spirit never dwindle. Opener "MYSTERY" launches a lush surf of arpeggiated synths to better kick you in the mouth with its subsequent ferocity. "DON'T PLAY" contains both fiery punk and a dreamy chorus led by reggaeton-esque drums, and the contrast between these two parts fortunately never borders on incoherentness.
Turnstile always were fundamentally groovy and rhythm-led, but the more affirmed hooks and expanded musical palette make for a newfound anthemic quality shining through Brendan Yates' lyrics. Lines like "Too bright to live/Too bright to die!" or "Now it's a holidayyyy" are desires to just have fun - hey there, pandemic reference, it's been a long time. These lil aphorisms do however not find their inner purpose in their reflectivity, but rather in the manner they are delivered. Halfway between tense melodicism and raucous shouts, they tie the musical package's duality together by expanding Yates' catalog without diluting his hardcore anthemic trait.
This approach goes hand in hand with the choice of the producer. Mike Elizondo not only co-wrote "In Da Club" and "The Real Slim Shady", but also produced the latest Jonas Brothers album as well as Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine
- lit combo ngl. His production job works at the service of Turnstile's music: the most hardcore cuts are amped up for maximum energy while the subtle experimentations are given the proper space. On "BLACKOUT", handclaps and drum machines are laid under the drum itself to bring the otherwise filthy hardcore banger into poppy territories without sacrificing the essential brutality needed to engage in pit activities. On the other side of the intensity spectrum, the slow-burning "ALIEN LOVE CALL" features luxuriant reverb that establishes the structure for Julien Baker's simple yet touching delivery and Blood Orange's spoken word segment.
It's not all victory though, for the lesser tracks - while good in their own right - do not match the best cuts' insane replay value. The clean vocals on "T.L.C." do not land as smoothly as intended, and "ENDLESS" will certainly deliver bangin' live moments, but feels lackluster compared to tunes that incorporate more twists to them - s/o to Blood Orange's double appearance, "ALIEN LOVE CALL" and closer Green Day-meets-My Bloody Valentine "LONELY DEZIRES". In these moments, Turnstile seemingly transcend the constraint of their base genre to flourish into a formation as forward-thinking as it is appealing. While it falls - very - short of being an era-slash-genre defining record, Glow On
represents Turnstile's best version of themselves - yet. The boiz are ready to move on to the next level.