STARVOX, (May 2003):
TURN PALE - 'Kill the Lights' CD
Turn Pale. I first discovered this band a little over a year ago, when they were kind enough to send me their debut singles 'May Last Until Winter' and 'Chance'. I have been anxiously anticipating a full-length release, and at last, the band's debut full-length Kill The Lights will be unveiled in June. How am I to review this disc, considering the current state of the Goth scene? Quite honestly, I can't see how any of the star DJs in the scene will condescend to care about this. And I say fuck them. Fuck them and fuck the scene. Unless of course you like the electro pop garbage that people shove down your throat weekly. That is your choice. But this band will most likely suffer because most of you will not know what to do with this CD. You couldnÕt possibly dance to it because there is no pulsing 4/4 beat with tinny synths beeping and blipping above it. So therefore, is this band really doomed to fall by the wayside? That hardly seems fair, does it?
I cling to tradition, regardless of whether it's dead or not to most of the world. Apparently, it isn't entirely. Turn Pale's music is a blatant, triumphant celebration of what Goth and Post Punk music was once all about. It is a raw, aggressive, and claustrophobic release. Jagged, pounding tribal rhythms, gigantic bass lines, scratchy piercing guitars, and a theatrical vocalist that is not afraid to let loose and scream, wail, and deliver an outright vocal attack. Michael Anderson is animated by a playful pomposity that recalls Rozz Williams and a frantic, manic inhibition that would make a young Nick Cave proud. The accompanying music is suitably pissed off, abrasive, discordant and bizarre when it needs to be -- yet this band never takes itself too seriously. They do not sink beneath the weight of pretense, nor are they mired in sugar-coated woe is me romanticism. There is an agitated sensuality to the music, as demonstrated in the sublime unrivaled brilliance of 'In Sight,' with its tight plodding dirge of a rhythm, propulsive bass line, and chilling, dizzying guitar riffs that trickle and ooze atop with stark menace. Raspy screams punctuate the rhythmic punches, while the song lurches onward to an all out explosion of bleak Indie perfection. The shuffling surrealism of 'Light Melts Away' is utterly faultlessness, a sprawling groove-oriented fusion of Bauhaus and early Sonic Youth. The funky frenetic disco-death of 'Peaceable Kingdom' vocally recalls Johnny Rotten and Public Image Ltd's early experimental work and musically revisits the shrill jangle of 'Reptile House' era Sisters Of Mercy. 'Beneath The Wheel' is a dark, buoyant slab of plodding gloom, which weds melodic airiness with the kind of climactic cacophony explored in the early days of bands like Wire and Gang Of Four.
These comparisons might seem tiring and a bit limiting on my part as a critic and reviewer. But I can't help but feel that it is Turn Pale's intention to suggest such comparisons with their music. However, what cannot be overlooked is that Turn Pale has indeed put their own creative spin on how they choose to interpret and present these classic sounds. Frankly, in the alternative music mainstream right now, bands like The White Stripes, Interpol, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are recycling elements of Post Punk and brilliantly polishing them to reach a wider audience. And critics are rightfully praising them. A Post Punk revolution very well might be the next big thing and I for one would rather listen to those aforementioned MTV2 stars than what is passing for underground music today. But Turn Pale's place in all of this is that they do not dilute or temper the classic elements of the genre. They are as nauseous, noisy, and alienating as The Birthday Party must have appeared in 1983. But with an even greater and updated sonic abrasiveness that puts them ahead of other contemporary bands. Though Turn Pale sounds dated, they are certainly a few steps ahead of everyone else.
Turn Pale's energy is irresistible, unmistakable and contagious. There is a fire lit beneath the collective ass of this band and the result is a collection of music that should, ideally, cause a veritable typhoon of critical praise and interest in the underground and perhaps even in the overground. They might be a little known band of average looking Indie rockers from Indiana, but they are responsible for some of the most exciting and explosive music since the classic cult bands that influenced them. I don't know what's going to happen with Turn Pale. I hope they get the exposure they deserve. I hope all the supposed Goth rockers out there buy this CD. I hope all the DJs that claim to be Goth, Death Rock, etc, start including this band in their club and radio playlists. What that will accomplish I have no idea, but it would be nice to walk into a Goth club and here music that evokes a strange and cerebral atmosphere, rather than a techno pop rave or corny fetish meat market.
Turn Pale could appeal to Indie rockers, Death Rockers, Goth kids, and apparently, mainstream alternative music fans as well. They could not have arrived at a better time Š all they need is the exposure. It will truly be a crime if this band continues to stay beneath the radar of dark music fans. I urge you to read between the lines of my bitterness and disenchantment with the scene and pick up this excellent release. You won't regret it.
- Matthew Heilman