Turn & Run
From the grim, damp corners of a “dead” city famed for call centres and abandoned factories emerged melodic hardcore outfit Turn & Run from Peterborough with a vision, roughly two years ago. Heightened through old, local fame through acts such as metalcore kings Khalo, and the dark Hellion (not to be confused with the 80s heavy metal bunch), Turn & Run took the support and respect they deservedly spent years earning and combined it with ambition found within pages from new chapters, and with their tool belts fully equipped, laid the blueprints out, and set their sights on rebuilding.
Now, I say “dead” city with my tongue in my cheek. I suppose having lived here for a vast portion of my life, I’m aware of the social hubbub – and many echo the words of The Legacy, “I want out!” (‘Ghost Town’, Solitude, 2006)… But those who wish to make their house a home; those who swap cement for love to keep their bricks together end up establishing a strong, defiant and rather unique scene. However, with that, comes a sense of ego and esotericism which is hard to break into, but even harder to break out of and create a name for one outside of the Peterborough walls. Just ask frontman Gardner about his previous attempt with a similar act known as Virtues when they played out of the city.
The scene itself, in my eyes at the very least, has lost its appeal and ‘pop’, and began to fizzle out… In a city full of crap bands, it’s hard to emerge or grab the attention of local residents, let alone those far and wide. This carbonates to a lack of attendance at shows and inevitably, a scene loses its power, its image, just everything really. I would say that since 2009 the vibe has dissolved dramatically… Digressing from the point, “dead” seemed to fuel the band – and spur them on to something greater than what they previously attained as simple teenagers: happy to play in front of their friends, grow their hair long to put barbers out of business and simply grow up whilst having fun. That alone is enough to admire the ambition of Turn & Run: connoisseurs of resuscitation.
“We started the band purely because we wanted to get all our closest friends together ‘cause we were done with having people in a band who weren't our best friends. So Gez jumped on the drums, and Karl learnt guitar. And we thought right, we're gonna’ write what we want to hear. So that comes on to Blossom”
- James Gardner
Influenced through acts such as Modern Life is War, Verse and more recently Defeater (I’m under the impression their name came from Defeater’s line “I ain't no coward, I don’t turn and run” (‘Red, White, and Blues’, Lost Ground, 2009)), it would appear the five-piece utilised the gap found within the market that the likes of More than Life (for example) lacked, and inevitably left. In comes Turn & Run contracted for the rebuild. Thus, Blossom, their first release… blossomed.
The record begins with a rally cry of twisting guitar chords and a roll of Harrison’s drums; a split second of deadly silence following by a crash. Opening track ‘Blossom’ is chaotic from the get-go – it’s motivating and enthusiastic, grabbing the attention of the listener from the start. The benefit of this is I always feel that this split second of the ‘Hey! Look at me!’ is rare at the start of a record, and I find myself drifting off and pottering about with my daily routine or internet browsing, not paying attention to the music, but Blossom is different, and ‘Blossom’ is the perfect opener. It’s like the trailer to the blockbuster. All the good bits are showcased: the emotion, the viciousness, the raw power, and the beautiful little licks – the whole package; the listener knows from then on in what to expect, and to be excited. It’s the best way to present to the world who they are and what they are about, really – like a wrestler and his theme tune: we remember Hulk Hogan was a good guy, all around American; we knew Stone Cold was a total badass; and we knew Billy & Chuck were… Umm… Y’know… All through their entrance music.
Originally entitled as ‘Forgetting’ during the demo stages last year, it’s nice to see (and know) that this track evolved over time, that the band didn’t just settle with the first outcome and went back to revise something that was already structurally incredibly sound. I remember when I, at a later show, heard the revised rendition; I instantly noticed that the opening lyrics had altered and the music was slightly different, I almost felt disheartened because I grew to becoming such a strong supporter of the song, and felt that demo held such potential for their emergence – but evidentially the modifications were not in vain, and the final product serves incredibly well.
Within the song, I am in love with the line “Don’t let me walk away!” – it’s howled out: a flawless, stand out little segment. It defines the song, along with its meaning, and I’m glad they did not stray from this ideal, or wording. ‘Blossom’ also sees McIntyre display his experienced skill and patience through a little guitar flare, with a modest and calculated filler that catches the listener off guard before the final, catchy explosion…
Hilbert hammers on the guitar as we are introduced to track two, ‘Goodbyes’, where one finds themselves nodding along without even realising it; its grove instantly hooks you in. It’s an emotional, heart-felt one about a friend no longer with them: “You’ll always be a friend to me”. It’s the heavy set filler which gives them a second to breathe yet leave the audience gawping and the sheer power. It’s a great follow up track and in intense listen – more so backs them up, coupled with backing vocals that stun you followed by complicated and quick witted lines and a traditional hardcore segment within truly capturing the band’s youth: “Of skateboards, and guitars, and basketball courts” – we are welcomed into their world and allowed to share their up-bringing.
‘Misled Youth’ follows, now with tones that sound far sharper recorded than live– I recognised the song itself instantly. Here you can tell Falco really holds the group together – his dominant bass masks the song from start to finish and Harrison accompanies in rolling the piece together. I found myself riding the bus time in what seemed like forever the other day, and blasted this track through my headphones. I found it impossible to not love his drumming, especially nearing the end, and found my feet tapping on - enjoy it ten fold. It’s almost like part two of ‘Goodbyes’ in its style of music and the way it is structured; the tracks blend well yet are distinct in their own rights. ‘Misled Youth’ comes across as more bitter... I’ve always liked the concept of writing a song and addressing it to oneself – perhaps this is something Gardner is doing here rather than lashing out at others, demanding himself to push himself further and past modern day problems (lines like “I am a project of this generation: no job, no hope, no salvation”, “We’re the seeds that you sow [...] it doesn't seem to be working”, “Being educated, yet you fail to move” suggest this idea), which naturally reflects back onto the audience as an inspiring song and incredibly creative... So then can “employ a new tactic”.
Beginning with a crescendo of haunting, spiralling vocals, ‘Absence’ is a bit of a powerhouse; a forceful song; a wrecking ball. I’m not too sure if this is a song that covers the story of a broken home, or close relationship, but the lyrics are sharp – as sharp as the vocals are angry. One can literally feel the hate through Gardner’s tone; he is displaying his rough voice within this one and it’s very striking. The song itself can almost be broken down into three sections: one, the wrecking ball; two, this broken down, elegant, melodic segment where the guitars almost resemble harps as they glide through the seconds in harmony – it’s a massive juxtaposition from part one; and three, the mess from the wrecking ball, an absolute emotional eruption that’s topped off by a very classy American post-hardcore-eqsue riff that exploits and empowers the band’s diversity; really capitalising on the term ‘melodic’.
Normally, I tend to turn my nose up at ‘easy’ lyrics; colloquial lines that appear thrown in for the frontman to get a cheap swear word in, showing their poor penmanship or just generic drivel they dribble through the microphone in hope to stick two finger sup at an ex-girlfriend. However, ‘Absence’ blurts out in distain “You f***ed up” – and this I really like. In fact, I absolutely relish it. It’s so fitting, its pitch is perfect, and its pace is precise. I’ve never known of a negative and harsh comment to leave such an impression on me. It’s peerless.
Gardner has discovered the key to his heart, which is made apparent from the start. It is undeniably clear that he has demons, and that he has had heart ache, and perhaps it’s uncomfortable for him to share such feelings, but for the sake of art and poetry the lyrics are almost unequalled with the UK hardcore scene; there was a requisite for this record to emerge. With all respect, it’s homage to the old 90s emo songs, marking Blossom as a greater and far more interesting listen than most releases in 2013.
The concluding track is entitled ‘Not in Love’, which starts off like the perfect finish – it’s epic, it builds up and it’s hopeful. Hilbert is an architect of aggression here, again smashing away with the rhythm, most notably in the hang-banging second verse. The song appears to set the standard for the future – one can picture the words ‘To be continued...’ suddenly flashing up as the song comes to an end; from the name of the song, we instantly relate to the lyrics “I’m on my own”, but grow to accept that there is a silver lining to this dark cloud; that the storm will pass for Gardner cries “In the end, I’ll keep pushing”, and thereafter he keeps repeating that he will ‘push’, drilling in that there is more to come. With crazy little riffs embedded between, so subtly entwined, to be followed by an eerie ending; odd guitar twangs that suddenly stop and fade out, the listener, or at least myself, am left hungry like the (lone)wolf. ‘Not in Love’ finishes the superlative record off and truly indicates it is a fantastic, enjoyable and moreish listen.
(Shall we say ‘the defiant’?) Turn & Run are James Gardner on vocals, Gerry Harrison on drums, Karl Hilbert and Dan McIntyre on guitar, and Jacob Falco on bass guitar: a standard five-piece line-up with tremendous amounts of talent and drive – equal parts to complete such a stand out record. This is, of course, matched by their live performance, reminiscent of Glassjaw. Gardner creates chaos and dances with the stage, whilst the other stand dominant like barricades, defending their castle. This can be depicted from the music – whilst the musical structure is there, Gardner swirls around with fury, dipping in and out of the songs, adding colour and chaos.
The name of the record itself, Blossom, must derive from their intention - it emerges them to us, and as time progresses, we are listening to them bloom/unfold: “We named it Blossom cause it's our first record and it's a good inclination to what sorta’ direction we're going in. Whether it'll be the more along the melodic path or heavier direction... But it's all there” – with the image of a flower in mind, there is simply only the bud at this stage. No one, not even one single band member, can be certain of how this flower will bloom. It’s a beautiful metaphor, and a powerful one all the same.
Now, for an explanation after such praise. I have rated this record 4/5 based on its place in the music market, as it can only reach such a height within the hardcore scene, specifically within the UK where it will be caged in (pun intended) – this is not to discourage listening to a wonderfully brutal showcase, but to highlight and document the starting point of something new. The scene itself neglects progress and development; shuns away ambition for the strange, so in order to make an impact (and building on earlier statements) the work will be boxed in for now – they need to be accepted and hit the ground running. It just truly helps they are running with such flare.
Hindering the record, in my opinion, is the mixing; it’s not polished off. The mixing is a strange affair – the record is left somewhat hissy and static at times; gritty; visceral; raw. I’m not sure if it was rushed or a nod to the chaotic hardcore outfits that helped maintain the scene. “We recorded it with Neil Kennedy at the Ranch production house, in Southampton. Same producer as the Tu Amore guys had, amongst others”, Gardner adds. Nonetheless, searching for the silver lining, I suppose it adds a traditional quality to the record – a down to earth approached, more concerned with its content than final product for the pleasure-seeking ears.
And, in a discussion with a former band mate of Gardner’s, who himself was part of hardcore hopefuls Permanence, agreed with me on this bold move, and who also commented on the odd circumstances within the hardcore scene when playing an out of town show, mentioned previously.
I think the key to their success this time is that they are doing ‘this’ for them, and having fun along the way, whilst confirming to the set guidelines the scene demands. The focus has been fully channelled on the music. Working menial and minimal-wage jobs, not caught up in producing Turn & Run windbreakers or snapbacks, let alone t-shirts, Blossom is passion incarnate, focused in all the right places, and for what it’s worth, it’s worth every second.
Blossom will aid with putting Peterborough on the map, and the point I’m trying to raise is that this record is only the beginning: “We've set ourselves up for a pretty cool follow up record”. One can only wait eagerly in anticipation already for their next release, guaranteed to be tinged with more development and experiments; with this a strong foundation has been constructed. Next: the home. “As for how [Blossom] ended up, we're f***ing stoked on it. We just wanna’ get out on the road now and show people what we got”.