My favourite band is Turbonegro, and I have absolutely no idea why. I guess something about the combination of humour, fuck you attitude and sheer balls of their sound and image does something for me on a deep, elemental level. I’ve loved them since I first heard Scandinavian Leather, bought from HMV after reading a glowing review of the record in Kerrang! magazine. They’d enclosed the song “Get It On” on a compilation CD of the weeks hot tracks and I was completely hooked from the first riff. They are crude and their appeal is totally primal, unexplainable on an intellectual level but deeply satisfying. You can’t fight it, or reason with it, you just need to absorb it and understand that their songs have changed your life. My life, anyway.
I’ve been lucky enough to see them live whenever they’ve toured the UK since I’ve been aware of them. They’ve done festival dates which I didn’t go to because fuck festivals. I saw them play Supersonic 2011 in Birmingham, which is also the city where I first saw them in the old Carling Academy in 2005. It was a five band line-up which also included The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – I don’t remember any of the other bands, I just remember Turbonegro and Eighties Matchbox blowing my 18 year old mind. My love of Eighties Matchbox subsided with time, even though I do listen to their debut now and again. For some reason, my feelings towards Turbonegro never waned or changed with age – in fact, it seems like the band are evolving their sound to match my tastes. They’ve been a musical entity for roughly as long as I’ve been alive (give or take a few years, and a few break-ups), and like the best bands I feel like I can track my life against their albums.
When Hank left the second time, I couldn’t see how the band would survive, and for a few years they didn’t. I tried to listen to the band he went on to form, Doctor Midnight and the Mercy Cult, but they were so awful that I don’t think I even finished the album. To put that into context I’ve listened to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music in its entirety, and enjoyed it. When the new singer Tony joined and they premiered “You Give Me Worms” – the first song from Sexual Harassment a.k.a. the first album post-Hank – on Daniel P. Carter’s Radio 1 Rock Show, somehow the band sounded more potent than they ever had before. While I’d always enjoyed the late period-Hank albums – Retox and Party Animals – neither of them had the urgency or latent threat of Apocalypse Dudes or Scandinavian Leather. The threat on those former records was palpable to the listener, and their enjoinder that “Turbonegro Must Be Destroyed” seemed like a message of great urgency. With “You Give Me Worms”, the band sounded like they had their grit back. They’d detuned to match the pitch of Tony’s depths-of-hell holler and as a result they’d mutated, or evolved, into a more muscular musical unit. Sexual Harassment is a hell of an album, and it’s a great thing that they don’t sound like a band traditionally sounds after twenty years. They’ve still got it together to put out “Shake Your Shit Machine”, and still have the requisite nihilism to pull off “Dude Without A Face”.
I feel like with every new band I listen to, I’m searching for something that will reach into me in the way that Turbonegro has. I want to knock them off their perch, and I want them to fail. I want a band to supersede them. I thought I’d found it when I first listened to Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart, which is probably my favourite album of all time, but their other work doesn’t grab me nearly as much. No band I’ve yet listened to has so strong a body of work that it could topple Turbonegro from the pedestal I’ve put them on, but I’ll never stop trying. It’s a hobby.