THE HERALD-TIMES, (July 3, 2003):

TURN PALE - 'Kill the Lights' CD

TURN PALE releases one of the best local discs of the year.

I'll use this week's column abridged by time and a slow week for live music, to catch up on some CD reviews, starting with one of the best, if not the best, local underground release of the year.

TURN PALE has been together for about a year and a half now, and last week released its debut full-length, Kill the Lights.  It is an album of remarkable focus, exceptional consistency and awesome power.

Turn Pale, by the very loosest definition, is a gothic rock group, in the vein of Bauhaus or Joy Division.  But to simply lump it in with those groups does it a disservice, because there is so much more happening on every song on this record.

The band's songs mostly travel in a similar vein - Marty Sprowles' pounding, tom-heavy repetative drumming kicks off many of the songs, followed closely by Pete Schreiner's throbbing, mechanical bass lines.  Nick Quagliara throws in spidery, slippery guitar lines or icy chords, and vocalist Michael Anderson jumps into the fray ranting and raving like a street preacher or a circus showman.

Anderson's vocal style is one of the more distinctive around, veering from bloodcurdling shrieking to barely audible whispering to punch-drunk rambling.  Sometimes this comes across similar to Mark E. SMith of The Fall, occasionally like early Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, at other times like the spoken-word interludes of Iggy Pop.  It's a style that works, giving the songs a sense of unpredictability.  You're never quite sure where Anderson - and the band - is going to end up, so sit back and enjoy the stories.  And Anderson's stories are good ones, although a little obscure, incorporating lots of intriguing imagery and stream-of-consciousness thinking.

The album's mood is dark and filled with a brooding tension, but it's not a depressing or morose record; on the contrary, Anderson imbues his lyrics with an air of hope and possibility, of a sense that there is something bigger outside of the darkness.

The highlights of this record, for me, are the fifth track, 'In Sight', which follows a neat, almost menacing descending guitar line all the way into a bottomless pit and then out again, punctuated by Sprowles' well-placed cymbal crashes, and 'Light Melts Away', which uses starts and stopes and other dynamic tricks very effectively.

This is a great record all around, though, filled with dense sonics - courtesy of LonPaul Ellrich's excellent production work - and creative songwriting, topped off by beautiful, simple artwork and packaging.  It's also in constant rotation on WFHB these days, so you can check it out there to get a sense of what Turn Pale is all about.

- from the Audibles column by David Coonce