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A Lot Of Love In The Room: How Turnstile's Big-Hearted 'Time & Space' Made Its Mark on 2018

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 Written by Huw Baines

Illustration: Tom Norton

Turnstile vocalist Brendan Yates—shirtless, slick with sweat and shredded beneath a surfer’s tangle of curls—is standing on top of a speaker stack at the Globe in Cardiff. “No future!” he yells as his bandmates’ guitars churn and howl. Arms reach towards him from the morass below, and then he’s gone. One front flip later he’s part of the crowd, thrashing his way to the end of Drop just like everyone else.​

Just like the tall guy who’s been airborne for almost the whole set, his shock of bleach blond hair bouncing around like the tethered tennis ball on a garden swing set, just like the two women who started two stepping half an hour ago and aren’t done yet. Just like the dude with a perfectly formed bootprint between his shoulder blades, and just like the cannonball in drainpipes, DMs and a Madball shirt who seems sure the next flailing arm they encounter will belong to Harley Flanagan.

Hardcore shows are by their very nature chaotic, confrontational things. This is one hell of a hardcore show, and Turnstile are one hell of a hardcore band, but there’s also something different at work here—a seam of pure joy running through the whole thing. For want of a better phrase, there’s a lot of love in the room. Back on stage, during one of several tiny breaks between songs, Yates asks the crowd: “You OK?” Fuck, man, they’re doing better than OK.

Things could have been very different, though. As well as a litany of shows as good as and better than this one, Turnstile’s 2018 has been home to ‘Time & Space’ (or the difficult second album). Hardcore, and by extension punk in general, has a bad rep for being a reductive, safety-first genre. That hasn’t really been the case for a long time, but that also doesn’t mean it’s all sweetness and light when a notable band tries something new. And ‘Time & Space’ was definitely something new.

Released by Roadrunner Records and produced by Will Yip, the follow up to ‘Nonstop Feeling’ smoothed out some rough edges, swabbed away the crossover thrash drum sound and embraced a choppy, mixtape-adjacent aesthetic perhaps best characterised by pop-house producer Diplo’s involvement on Right to Be, and the 25 second alt-R&B interlude Bomb. Here, guest singer Tanikka Charraé’s voice was warped and stretched to open the floor to Franz Lyons’ grinding bass intro to I Don’t Wanna Be Blind. In the accompanying video, a group of people leave their porch to total a car that’s crushed a bunch of flowers belonging to a skater kid. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

When it landed back in February, ‘Time & Space’ immediately felt like one for the dreamers. It wasn’t for everyone, which was to be expected, but it stacked up as an honest statement by a group of people taking chances and refusing to be cowed by fear or expectation. And it was so much fun. It’s been said and written a million times but it doesn’t make it any less true—the world outside our windows is a waking nightmare right now. In 25 minutes, in and out, this record offered a release.

For so many, music is about lines in the sand. That can be both a strength and a weakness—a sense of belonging vs. the broadening of horizons, for example. Along with a sense of community and solidarity, there are so many things in hardcore that could potentially trip you up, from the entrenched views of the old guard to etiquette, realness, and the sometimes nebulous concept of the scene. This is a style of music that once almost broke itself in half over Champion sweatshirts and white trainers. Turnstile’s work seems to say: what if it just makes you feel alive? Wasn’t that the point all along?

Forty years ago, hardcore was a way to smash the idols who had set aside their rallying cries. It was a way of rejecting the past in favour of something sharper and more dangerous. Turnstile don’t want to delete the ‘80s, but their rebellion hits like a push for inclusivity and a shared sense of optimism and excitement. As the pit rages, Yates roars and Lyons performs his latest death-defying scissor kick, it feels like we’re all doing our bit to make that a reality. The thrill will last as long as the bruises.

Turnstile’s songs are what they are—these days there are keyboards, sweet vocal hooks and flashes of classic rock next to the mosh parts—and they expect a level of acceptance from us that they’re committed to following their own path. In return, they do without some of the badges of honour that a few hardcore bands used to wear: people getting brutalised outside their shows, or on the dancefloor, macho bullshit and bigotry.

Our present is ugly, but ‘Time & Space’ is colourful and big-hearted. It’s like holding up a mirror and seeing a better reflection than you expected. “Everything I do, I want it to be progressive,” Yates told Noisey's David Anthony earlier this year. “I always want to be progressing. Not necessarily changing who I am, but to allow myself to naturally grow.” He managed it this year.

When Turnstile were tapped as an example of the new breed of hardcore for a New Yorker piece a few years back Kelefa Sanneh said (not unkindly) that “‘Nonstop Feeling’ won’t be anybody’s cause,” referencing the manner people used to rage with, or against, bands like Agnostic Front. “Turnstile never pretends to be anything other than a bunch of young men blowing off steam,” he wrote. “Hearing them now, you’re tempted to wonder whether that’s all hardcore ever really was.”

Turnstile in 2018 felt like more than a bunch of young men blowing off steam. Things should change over time. ‘Time & Space’ belongs to them, but they want it to be ours too. While its go-for-broke ambition, blood and guts, and risks are theirs, it’s also a record that says to the kids windmilling around the room that it’s OK to try. It’s OK to push yourself. It’s OK to keep moving forward. In the grand scheme of things, these might be small victories. Right now, small victories are a big deal. 

Huw Baines is the editor of Stereoboard. He's on Twitter.

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