THE FREE PRESS, (July 3, 2003):

TURN PALE - 'Kill the Lights' CD

A darkness visible: TURN PALE's Danceable Gloom

Bloomington is filled with bands that know their roots.  TURN PALE's roots are firmly planted not in the Indiana soil from which it was tilled, but from far, far away in another country and in another time.  In the late 70s and early 80s, when most Bloomington youth had barely heard of punk, there was something fantastic happening overseas in England.  While punk did make an appearance then in Bloomington, as it did in many college towns across the country, the real revolution was overseas - a revolution that would echo for years to come.  Punk shocked, it rocked, but like all good things became exploited and overexposed. English punks soon realized that all they wanted to do was dance.

Enter post-punk music, which was influenced by punk rock, but more importantly took cues from dance, glam, and krautrock by folks such as David Bowie, T-Rex and Kraftwerk. Bands like A Certain Ratio, The Clash, The Cure, Bauhaus, and Throbbing Gristle, all of whom were English, dominated the post-punk sound and took punk music places it never dreamed of going by mixing the Thatcher-era political anger of punk with an optimistically futile dance beat.  By taking bits from James Brown and Funkadelic, as well as the contemporary New York sound of No Wave, these bands infused the punk anger with a deeper and darker gloom, and rock music has never been the same since.  Eventually, post-punk evolved into synth rock and then ultimately into alternative rock.  You can fill in the blanks there if you wish.

So what does a band from Bloomington, Indiana in 2003 have to do with this often overlooked genre of music?  Well, first, an appreciation for original music, but more importantly, music you can dance to.  Turn Pale, comprising members of Panoply Academy and noise/drone band Drekka, is just that.  It's a combination that clicked from the beginning, and if you've felt the energetic mayhem of their live show you know what I'm talking about.  Kill the Lights is their first full length CD and has been long anticipated.

The lead song, 'Submit to Me', starts off with a lonely drum and bass line, setting a dark and moody tone for the record.  Lead vocalist Michael Anderson reinvents the angry southern drawl of Birthday Party-era Nick Cave while channeling the creepy crawly Bauhaus-era Peter Murphy.  Anderson attacks the listener with sharp stabs of spoken word, interspersed with singing, while the band slinks around with heaving drums, loping basslines and choppiung herky-jerky guitars.  Like a snake protecting its young, hissing and spitting, the music protects while at the same time nurturing and encouraging the words to lash out.

'Light Melts Away,' 'Peaceable Kindgom,' 'Beneath the Wheel,' and 'Sycophant' are clearly the standout dance cuts, driving home a death-disco sound that is uniquely theirs, recalling the genius of Joy Division, or early New Order.  I would love to see a DJ dance 12" of these songs.  The final cut, 'Implicate,' brings the recording full circle by pounding home the death-chant vocals and funeral march drums that appear throughout the disc.  The remainder of the songs bounce back and forth from dirge to danceable and everywhere in between, allowing some time to catch your breath before you hit the dancefloor again.  If dancing were allowed at funerals, Turn Pale's Kill the Lights would be on the decks of every death-DJ's turntables.

- Jonathan Richardson