Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

time & space by turnstile

reviewed by jim hepplewhite


turnstile-time-space-2.jpg

Trapped Under Ice was once the biggest band in the small pond of hardcore punk. Demoralized by their fans punching fifteen year old girls, the members of Trapped Under Ice walked away from the band at the height of their popularity. The vocalist, Justice, formed Pop Wig Records and a band called Angel Du$t, an upbeat band that mixed Bad Brains with The Lemonheads. The effect was a band so dedicated to unobjectionable good times that if anyone other than The Dude From Trapped Under Ice fronted it, the members would've been laughed out of the room.

Then again, there's no other band I've seen that inspired a video like this.

A couple other members started Turnstile. They stayed with TUI's sound, but chose a more wholesome vibe and lyrics less likely to attract goons. For eight years, they toured hard, sometimes supporting bands Turnstile outdrew by roughly three to one. They signed to a major label subsidiary (Roadrunner) a while ago, but no one from the outside world cared until label mates Code Orange scored a Grammy nod. Since then, critical response is like someone put a whole hive of bees in the critical bonnet.

Pitchfork commissioned a hit piece on Time & Space, largely, I imagine, to remind Turnstile that they're a hardcore punk band without a marketable gimmick, so they should stay in their lane. Spin put them on the cover of a magazine, which is great, except that shows how desperate Spin is. NPR compares them to Rage Against the Machine in the same sentence as the writer calls Snapcase a straight edge band. (Snapcase was not a straight edge band.)

I tore my hair out reading those pieces.

It isn't that difficult. Kelefa Sanneh did it three years ago: Turnstile are the heirs to New York's NYHC sound, and Turnstile's new record creates a surprisingly agile Frankensteinian monster of 90s alt (Quicksand, Snapcase) and NYHC. Producer (and Studio 4 owner) Will Yip knows how to do both, given that he recorded Quicksand's comeback record Rooms Of The House and functionally started his career recording Philly's best hardcore band, Blacklisted.

 "Turnstile Band,"  Paranaense87  on Wikimedia Commons

"Turnstile Band," Paranaense87 on Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Yip does not merely get great takes out of Turnstile but engineers the band in such a way that I'm reminded of seeing Turnstile live. He succeeds in a difficult job of conveying to the listener to turn this the fuck up while also maintaining the best tones possible. He captures the boisterous energy of the live experience with studio recording quality.

Take the song "High Pressure" as an example of Time & Space. It's a two minute song that opens hard, then adds what sounds like a keyboard part to juice the tension, eventually segues into a guitar solo, the keyboard part returns and then, without missing a beat, "High Pressure" spends the last minute of the track as a mosh song. Curiously, it all flows.

Technically, Time & Space's 13 songs and 25 minutes long, but toss out the two interludes and Time & Space hits an even more concise 11 songs in 24 in minutes. It's a little less than two and a half minutes per song, which is roughly the right length for a hardcore record. Turnstile wisely does not let an idea meander. About as soon as I think "Oh, that’s a good part," it's only around for another couple seconds.

Turnstile had the time to write Time & Space shorter, and they did. And, just when you think they're wrapping up the record on the final track, they still manage to throw in another chug chug part.

"Moon" (sung by bassist Franz Lyons) is another nice surprise. He's sung backing vocals for Turnstile in the past, but here he's the main vocalist and the song's good enough to make a case for more of his vocals going forward. Apparently Tina Hallway of Sheer Mag also sings on "Moon"? I have no idea how they'll do Diplo's part (yes, that Diplo) on "Right To Be" live, or if they'll even bother.

Almost every song on Time & Space includes a nasty menacing part, whether that's the backbone of the song or just one piece, which makes writing about Time & Space difficult. At bottom, Time & Space is never too far from a reverent Cro-Mags nod (the nasty, menacing part), but what's shocking is how it's also never too far from something else.