Turin Brakes - Outbursts
Review by Jack Foley
TURIN Brakes were arguably at the forefront of the acoustic folk scene when they released their debut LP, The Optimist, in 2001 and were duly rewarded with a Mercury Music Prize nomination.
Since then, they’ve never quite hit the heights many expected, although they’ve consistently maintained the quality. Two years aftter the release of their last LP, Dark on Fire, they return once again with another strong offering: Outbursts.
Ironically, there many never be a better time to receive them. The folk/acoustic moment has really come into its own of late, bolstered by artists as many and varied as Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, Joshua Radin and many more. The penchant for classic songwriting values, simple instrumentation and Simon & Garfunkel inspired retro nods shows little sign of abating just yet.
Hence, Outbursts makes the most of that trend and reminds what Turin Brakes – aka Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian – do best. The standard is set from opening track [and former single] The Sea Change, which is built around some sparkling guitar licks, and a strong chorus that’s rife with melody, as well as thought-provoking sentiments.
Opening with the line “six billion backs against the wall”, the track then proceeds to count back like a ticking time-bomb, airing the concerns of those six billion to just one individual – which are, of course, exactly the same, and prompting the statement: “If we don’t do this, somebody else will!”.
They also incorporate some sweeping strings late on to really announce their comeback in style.
The Sea Change is one of the LP’s firm highlights, but there are many others too. Mirrors adopts a slightly rockier vibe and is full of lush guitar work and dark but hopeful lyrics such as “let the universe do its worst”, while Rocket Song finds Olly navigating a melody line that climbs ever upwards in a delightful spiral complete with excellent sweeping guitar chord. It’s a sweeping song that unfolds in beautiful fashion.
Paper Heart strips things down to represent the album at its most intimate – emerging as an achingly vulnerable, waltz-time lament with a haunting piano and string part, and which dissects a relationship in which one person has the power to “re-arrange the sunsets” and play with their lover’s world as if it was a little stage set.
Will Power, a personal favourite, picks up the vibe, layers in some backing vocals over the memorable chorus, and provides another string backdrop that’s utterly empowering and Embryos has a real Simon & Garfunkel vibe, that’s really nicely delivered – albeit in edgier fashion.
Apocolips, too, embraces classic songwriting structure and values, coming over all trippy, and running some fine piano chords through the chorus, while Never Stops adopts a more bluesy, lived-in vibe vocally and lyrically (“trouble, don’t knock upon this door no more”) that’s perfectly in keeping with the fine guitar riffs.
A classic rock vibe, meanwhile, is hinted at in the approach to Radio Silence, which has a whiff of Bowie and even The Pixies about it, albeit in a more acoustic-punk fashion until the explosive finale to the song. It’s another fine moment from an album that really is packed with them.
In short, Outbursts is the type of LP that’s well worth shouting about.
Download picks: The Sea Change, Rocket Song, Paper Heart, Will Power, Apocolips, Radio Silence, Never Stops