Turnstile Time & Space

[Roadrunner; 2018]

Styles: hardcore, metal, Champion sweatshirt
Others: Trapped Under Ice, Angel Du$t, Rage Against the Machine

“If feeling is what they want (oh yeah) / Then feeling is what they get”

Such is the tip-off for 2015’s Nonstop Feeling, the emblematic full-length debut from Baltimore hardcore outfit Turnstile. A sporty spin on mainstay hardcore gang vocals, the opening chant feels like a team hyping each other up before hitting the court. It’s a spirit of camaraderie that’s refreshingly amongst the group, not just the singer addressing the listener. Give ‘em what they want, and do it right. Make it sincere, earnest, and unique. Unabashedly funky and athletic, Turnstile offer a version of hardcore that owes as much to East Coast hardcore as to early-90s alternative like Living Colour and Rage Against the Machine, showing how the good records from the latter era are in their sweat.

Within Turnstile’s bravado is a genuine search for meaning. It’s a little corny, but it stands out in a genre that currently retains its popularity from pure darkness and vengeance. The doubt on display is addressed straight-on, with little ambiguity. Nonstop Feeling track “Gravity” was all about self-doubt, but there was a soulfulness among the hard-edged punk. Both soul and punk have a history of putting your whole body into the music at risk of looking ridiculous. Turnstile embraces this fully (emphasis here on frontman Brendan Yates’s silly dances and posturing), and Time & Space, their long-awaited followup, takes these elements further, with synths, jazzy breaks, hand claps, and atmospheres that recall post-hardcore like Fear Before and Touché Amoré. Lyrically and instrumentally, they’re not done searching.

Cohesion wins out here. Nonstop Feeling struggled with keeping the balance of caffeinated and chill. Time & Space hits it just right. It’s a tight release, determined to both retain the foundation of their previous sound and branch out into new territory. Proving the jock jams haven’t let up with “Real Thing” — you could fit a chant and a clap over that opening riff, no problem — the song still manages to end on a psychedelic note. But just before you can really groove with it, Yates comes charging back with “Big Smile,” a risky number that delves into Chuck Berry territory and ends on a trippy loop of the song’s namesake. The noodling and uh-huhs on “Generator,” the stoned coos and vocal cracks of “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind,” the arena gusto opening up into single piano key triggers on “High Pressure,” the continuation of their Descendents/Bad Brains worship on ballad “Moon” (with Freaky Franz Lyons sharing vocals with Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay): it all fits in with the psyched-out album art — a mosh pit pressed against desert sands, with a disco ball overhead. Turnstile clearly aren’t afraid to put conflicting elements together, comfortable with never being comfortable with just being a Hardcore Band.

Time & Space explodes with positive energy, emphasizing the rebuilding of oneself while the band itself builds together as a unit. This is not novel to hardcore, but it’s a bold thing to embrace while the rest of the genre focuses on going fast and hard. Turnstile does these things too, but they know it’s just as hardcore to include Roy Orbison samples. They know how deep the lineage goes. Turnstile, like Trash Talk and Code Orange, have gained prominence by knowing the direction people want rock to go in, embracing all genres, particularly hip-hop. If that scares people in the hardcore scene, then they should think about how to make another Judgment Night soundtrack. For a large segment of the world, nu metal remains a huge influence. Of course, there are a lot of embarrassing components, just as any genre has, but these kids want folks to forget about it and just grab a hold onto a deeper, heavier, groovier feeling. Oh, yeah.

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