On the 2014 EP ‘Animal Fat‘, Take Turns recycled many parts of 90s alt-rock and grunge, serving up cheeky nostalgia by the dustcart load, leaving behind a half dozen Pavement-esque gold sounds guaranteed to please listeners hitting those tricky forties at the time of release. The Leeds slackers brought back youth and exuberance aplenty, showed they could wield a guitar and distortion pedal with the best of ’em, but above all – and this being very much the clincher – never sounded lazy when doing so. The love for those whom influenced Take Turns cut through almost every note, making the release seem as if constructed from more than just dusty hand-me-downs
On this full-length, the band takes everything you loved about them before and expands on their retro ideas at least threefold, taking in slacker idioms and pop culture junk along the way, resulting in a listen that’s fun, quirky, sometimes dirgy, often nostalgic and – once again – rather nervy in the way it lifts from various sources. In fact, the disc’s opening statement ‘Confit (Song For Patti)’ kicks off with one of the best as a rousing twin lead riff leads the way. The guitars cry out like a Boston alt-rock band shamelessly lifting melodies from Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’, while the jubilant vocal, too, has a buoyant and uplifting slant that recalls a melody from the younger Rivers Cuomo. The hook is big, though never as big as the riff…and the riff is wondrous. If this is how Take Turns mean to carry on, they’re tighter than before – more Weezer-centric, even – but, of course, it isn’t long before other sledgehammer influences take hold. ‘Daisy Cutter’ retains a pop-ish feel at first, combining a clean guitar and heady drum sound, before adding a lead guitar which sounds like a close relation to the opener. These things combined make a great tune – and bursts of noise during what passes as a chorus up the ante, as well as dropping in a Nirvana-esque riff – but the strongest impression is left by the vocal itself. Reasonably distorted, the voice hits and its like experiencing a sober Mark E. Smith reading the disjointed slam poetry of Thurston Moore…and this, friends, is pure magic.
Crashing in with a distorted riff and early Veruca Salt inspired lead, ‘Captain Caveman’ starts with a general bloat and bluster – that lead guitar hanging on to a tone some would kill for – before sliding into a quieter slacker rock verse. For those who began to wonder if the love for Pavement and Stephen Malkmus’s voice had somehow weakened in the interim since the EP, it comes through here in a way that’s absolutely brazen. There are moments where this could be Pavement. Shifting back to the noiser edge, the introductory riff crushes through everything, every bit as appealing as before, while it becomes increasingly clear the tune bears no connection with it’s given title – a 70s pop culture reference that’ll mean nothing to the kids who discovered grunge in their teens circa 2012. It’s a tune of two distinctly different musical ideas smashed head-on, but works well. Well enough to be one of the album’s finest tracks, in fact. With a lop-sided and almost circussy vibe, ”63 Deep Freeze’ escalates the Malkmus obsessions in the vocal depot, while musically, the hazy and half-smashed atmosphere is lifted by some superb bass work and a neo-Pixies homage driven by crashing guitars, before the shimmery sound of ‘Everyone’s Grudge’ hits the album’s mid-point with something more accessible. Once the vocal grabs a hold, of course, it’s rather Pavement-y, but for those who still adore the underrated ‘Terror Twilight’, there will be a reasonable appeal.
Quiet and unsettling, ‘Open Sesame’ adds 90s slacker elements to a dual vocal and more Weezer influences, centring around a softly picked guitar. Given that Take Turns have already shamelessly flaunted their boner for Malkmus in a superior fashion elsewhere and hook-wise this doesn’t reach the thrilling climaxes of either ‘Confit’ or ‘Captain Caveman’, it’s very much in the second division as far as this album is concerned, but even then, the crashing riff filling the louder parts does its chosen job with aplomb. ‘Grand Depart’, meanwhile, makes a much bigger feature of the drums – the production bringing out a hefty thud – but is otherwise another Pavement and Superchunk love in, before ‘Nothing But Ones’ lightens the mood again, introducing a lovely bass sound and a twin guitar churning a riff that’s occasionally more Steely Dan than Sonic Youth. More traditional alt-rock noise steps up to link everything and another near spoken vocal adds an art rock cool. Between the retro throwback leads, heavy post-grunge riffery and a storytelling bent, this is a surprisingly full three minutes – the sense of scope and adventure places it among the top tier of Take Turns material, but it’s almost as if they have a change of heart afterwards, wimping out with the short ‘Will You Be Quiet Please?’, a Malkmus inspired interlude about a coffee machine.
Closing the album, ‘Oceans of Green Lawns’ might have a weaker vocal, but that’s more than made up for by the music – in this case, slow and intensive chords with volume cranked, adding elements of Smashing Pumpkins to the buzzing sonic palate. While the guitars rein supreme – echoing at least three 90s classics – the basswork is precise, the drumming heavy and domineering, while those vocals…well, you’ll know what they sound like by now. Bringing it all to a close with a heavy, post-rock wah-wahed solo and a swathe of distortion, there’s nothing left hanging. Take Turns clearly know how an LP should be finished.
It sort of goes without saying but, if you liked the EP, you’ll love this album. With a longer playing time, Take Turns get a bigger canvas and their broad strokes of distortion, discord and slackness – combined with a worship of Malkmus, Cuomo (why, why?), Black Francis and an occasional grudging nod to Cobain – are able to take the listener back to the nineties with far more of an authentic feel than most can muster. It isn’t perfect by any means, but still comes recommended. Very much so, in fact.