I was actually a bit worried about this review. I’d jumped, almost literally, at the opportunity to review The Free Life by Turbowolf. I absolutely loved their first two albums and I’m of the opinion that there’s genuinely not one song that’s any less than excellent on either of them. Having seen them live just a couple of years ago I’d rate them as one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot…so when I listened to the album and thought “Meh” on a distracted first listen, I became a little apprehensive about what to write. But…
It’s now several days and many listens later – I’ve since played it through my good sound system and speakers, through headphones, in my car and on my phone at work (shhh, don’t tell my boss!), and I’m glad to say my apprehension was completely unwarranted. It’s Turbowolf through and through. It’s energetic, smart, fun and most of all, it’s fantastic. If you’re already a fan you can probably skip the rest of the review now and just go buy it!
There are a couple of changes here and there to the near-trademarked Turbowolf sound. The first of these you’ll notice is that there are quite a few guest appearances; Mike Kerr, singer/bassist from Royal Blood “Used his vocal chords to express sound” on “Domino”; which happens to be one of Sir Elton John’s favourite songs of the year so far. Death from Above’s Sebastien Grainger makes a rather excellent appearance in “Cheap Magic” and although he has a similar pitch to some of Chris Georgiadis’ vocals, the different delivery really adds something to the song. Elsewhere on the album you’ll hear Joe Talbot from Idles and Chantal Brown from Vodum lending their talents.
Another slight change for me is the bigger blending of sound created with Lianna Lee Davies’ bass lines and the harmoniser pedal-fuelled guitar playing of Andy Ghosh. It sounds like the two instruments have combined more now than ever and just create this big wall of overdriven noise that I love. The riffs, from the very first one that opens the album in “No No No”, all the way through to the title track “The Free Life”, are amazing and both Lianna and Andy seem to know when exactly to hold back and when to let rip and pummel your ears. There are a few short solos spread throughout the album and there’s a slight reminiscence of Josh Homme’s lead work to some of them, which is definitely no bad thing!
The drumming all the way through the album is exceptional. Amongst their peers I’m not sure there’s a better or more energetic drummer than Blake Davies. He’s a genuine legend in my eyes. Listening to this from start to finish makes my limbs feel heavy in sympathy… I play a little and I’m both awestruck and jealous of his ability to find the right beat for every part of every song. The speed that some of these are played at make my eyes water!
Vocally, Chris is on top form here. He seems to have developed even more range than ever and in particular the vocals on the title track sound like they’re one or two octaves higher than anyone should be able to reach without having had a solid kick to the balls. There’s a lot of charisma to his voice and the delivery throughout is fantastic – he’s also a master of super catchy melodies and singalong choruses.
In terms of the songs themselves, they initially don’t sound as diverse as say, their self-titled debut, but the more you listen to it, the more the songs separate and you can hear all the different influences and styles. Of course this is something Turbowolf have always been notable for; their love of psychedelic rock, desert (or stoner if you like) rock and old fashioned rock n’ roll, amongst others, has always shone through in their music. However on this album everything is handled a little bit smoother. The band all fully know what kind of musical beast Turbowolf is and the disparate elements all come together superbly.
I haven’t really gone in to any details over the individual songs themselves here and don’t intend to now (as I’d rather you all just bought the album and listened to it from start to finish), but I want to make special mention of the title track “The Free Life” . This could be, in my own humble opinion, the single best Turbowolf song there is and is an easy contender for song of the year – even though it’s barely into the third month…
There’s one more factor to this album that I can’t verify as yet, but I suspect will be the case. Each song here, with the exception of the stripped back album closer that is “Concluder”, sounds and feels like it was meant to be played live and I’m confident that every single one of them will be a crowd pleaser.
If you’re not already a fan (in which case I’m amazed you’ve read this far) then it may well be that you have no soul or heart. Go and listen to Turbowolf. Now! Then buy this and the other albums. Then go get tickets to see them live as their tour starts in the UK this Friday (9th March) and well, I’m not sure there’s a better or more entertaining live band on the scene anymore! Did I mention that I really like Turbowolf?
Ross’s second opinion:
So, Turbowolf. Where the first album saw Turbowolf show the world what they are, Two Hands took their formula one step further. Blending punk with garage rock, hard rock and psychedelia alongside making an album as experimental as they could, it was the sign of a band discovering their identity. The Free Life sees them stay within the realm of avant-garde hard rock, for that is what they are. But it’s restrained and further refined. It may not be as trippy as the second album, reining it in to streamline it, there’s still everything you’d expect from a Turbowolf album. Fuzzy riffs play off some of the meatiest basslines ever, backed with drums that will force you to nod your head or – at times – snap your neck with the force you’ll be headbanging. Despite the myriad of guests featuring on the album, it doesn’t take away from the meat of the album, all adding their own flavour to the mix. Even Mike Kerr of Royal Blood comes across as semi-passable. Whilst the zany-ness of Turbowolf is half of the appeal, making something far leaner has worked well for them here to make their best work to date.
The Free Life is out on March 9th