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Turbo Fruits - Turbo Fruits

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Artist: Turbo Fruits

Album: Turbo Fruits

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Aug. 10, 2007

Jonas Stein and John Eatherly, the guitarist and drummer of female-fronted punk band Be Your Own PET, have joined up with bassist Jeremy Ferguson and dubbed themselves Turbo Fruits. Their self-titled Ecstatic Peace debut comes a little more than a year after Be Your Own PET was the subject of one of those torrential yet oh-so-ephemeral downpours of summer buzz. The buzz with which Turbo Fruits appear preoccupied, though, isn't necessarily the one derived from a trend-spotting press armed with a dictionary full of seizure-inducing superlatives (though they'll no doubt catch a bit of that, too).

Turbo Fruits are big into getting high, and go about discussing it in a couple of different ways; the 15 songs found on Turbo Fruits are stylistically split. Most of the tracks are fuzzed-out but fast, jangly stoner-punk that sounds kind of like a more aggressive Dead Milkmen born and bred in the bluesy tobacco south. Where the disc really hits its stride, though, is on the mid-tempo tracks that delve into stripped-down, sweaty, dirty rock and roll. The whole disc is held together by Jonas' vocals. Sometimes he sings in a nasal pop-punk grunt. The rest of the time, he throttles his voice down into a gritty faux-blues baritone and sings with a weird inflection that owes some small debt to Sam the Sham's oddball enunciation. Employing a whole vocabulary of unique vocal flourishes, Turbo Fruits "ooh," "ahhh," and sometimes whistle their way through a fantastic debut.

The surfy lead of "No Drugs to Use," Chuck Berry channeling on "Fight This!" and the staccato vocals on "Murder" all make for great, not to mention idiosyncratic hard-edged pop-punk songs. Some of the other songs of this variety, though, feel kind of like filler. Turbo Fruits are still young, and that shows through a bit too much in songs like "Devo Girl," a solid circle-pit ska-punk track that veers a little too far into "my first punk band" territory. From its title alone, you can tell that the disc's final track, "The Ballad," dwells in a similar sort of nervous, goofy self-referentiality. The guerrilla product placement found in the pothead-pleasing junk food homage "Poptart" also feels a little dorky. Then again, there are plenty of canonical, dorky odes to junk food throughout punk history (The Undertones' "Mars Bars" comes immediately to mind), so you can't really hold a band's reverence for poptarts against them.

The weaker songs on Turbo Fruits stick out so much because the ones that surround them are exceptional. On "Volcano", Stein describes the preconditions for poptart consumption by way of plugging (and plugging in) the band's favorite vaporizer. A single swampy Sabbath riff underlies Jonas' vocals, as he delivers a bleary-eyed sort of commercial jingle. "What do you call it when you get so stoned, you can't even be?" he croons, and answers his own question with the name of the venerated smoking device in question, his voice brought to a psychosexual tremble every time he ventures to mention it. By the middle of the song, he's opts to replace the one-word refrain with a quick guitar squeal (a bit reminiscent of how, in Blue Cheer's churning take on "Summertime Blues," instead of saying "no dice son, you gotta work-a late," the protagonist's boss does a bass solo.)

"Pocket Full of Thistles" is another great dirty rockin' ditty; it finds the band whistling over a blaring stomp reminiscent of Mind Garage's "Asphalt Mother." "The Run Around" is a hell of a rocker as well, mostly because musically it’s an identical rip-off of T-Rex's "Jeepster." Turbo Fruits don’t try to copy Bolan's singularly weird post-Dungeons and Dragons imagery, glammy affect, and vocal tremble, though. Rather, they use the song’s 12-bar blues core to explore a classic theme; searching for a healthy outlet for their teenage lust.

Their more explicit homage, however, doesn’t go over quite as well. A cover of The MC5's version of "Ramblin' Rose" doesn't approach doing justice to the beautiful trainwreck that is the original. The slovenly mess of Freddy “Sonic” Smith's guitars and Wayne Kramer's piercing falsetto somehow get translated into the cleanest sounding thing on Turbo Fruits, not to mention they play the song’s simple riff all wrong. Strange as it sounds, the cover of an MC5 song is the least MC5-sounding song on the entire album, making you wonder how familiar they actually were with the track when they recorded it.

But a blown cover and a few underdeveloped songs don’t detract that much from what these precocious stoners have going on. They’re young and a little goofy, but they’re stripped-down, fried, and filthy, and they play music that’s more vital at heart than any number of ‘garage rock revival’ acts. Listening to Turbo Fruits, they don’t seem like the kind of band that has to implore you to “rawk and roll” 50 times a set.

By Matthew A. Stern

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