Having redefined the acoustic pop genre with their debut album, The Optimist LP, which was short-listed for the Mercury Music Prize in 2001, Turin Brakes, aka Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, went on to release a string of superlative collections which saw them gradually expand on their original sound and vision. By the time of their last album, Dark On Fire, produced by Ethan Johns, the acoustic troubadours had turned into a fully-fledged, plugged-in, most-notable, soft-rock band.
Now, with their new album, Outbursts, Olly and Gale have rediscovered the working practices that got them started in the first place, and with it their old sense of mission. Written, produced and (for the most part) performed entirely by the two of them, the album is a collection of songs that returns to the essence of Turin Brakes, and not only echoes the quiet, edgy genius of their most celebrated work, but surpasses it. “We thought ‘Let’s go back and do this whole thing like we used to’,” Gale says. “Do it as a duo. That’s where the magic is.”
“The fewer middlemen there are between us and the people who are interested in our music, the better,” Olly says. “I think our fans found it frustrating when they could see that we were having to play some sort of a game when we were signed to a major label. We’re embarking on a new era where there is a far greater immediacy between the band and the listener.”
Pop song writing doesn’t get much bigger than the apocalyptic musing of the opening track – and lead single, Sea Change, which begins with the line: “Six billion backs against the wall.” Borne aloft by a patchwork of nimble, twinkling acoustic guitar lines, the lyric avoids grand, windy rhetoric. Instead, it relentlessly counts down, like a ticking time-bomb, from the concerns of six billion people to those of just one individual – which are, of course, exactly the same. Paper Heart an achingly vulnerable, waltz-time lament with a haunting piano and string part, dissects a relationship in which one person has the power to “rearrange the sunsets” and play with their lover’s world as if it was a little stage set. Radio Silence, meanwhile, captures a sense of beautiful alienation redolent of ‘OK Computer’-era Radiohead. The moment of complete silence towards the end, followed by a sudden surge of sound and the majestic guitar line in the outro is breathtaking. At other times, it is the simple power of words and tunes that give the album its distinctive emotional flavour. On Rocket Song, Olly navigates a melody line that climbs ever upwards in a delightful spiral, while Never Stops, a soulful, life-affirming mantra, with a raw, bluesy feel, sums up the enduring spirit of Turin Brakes and their uniquely thoughtful brand of acoustic music.
“We loved the idea that these songs were outbursts that were going to happen whether we liked it or not,” explains Olly. “It’s an album that has been made with no outside briefing or preconceived plans. It is absolutely true to ourselves.”
Turin Brakes will be performing in Whelan’s on June 18th. Tickets are €23 on sale this Friday at 9am. Win a pair of tickets.
www.cookingvinyl.com / www.turinbrakes.com / www.myspace.com/turinbrakes /