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Turbo Fruits

Echo Kid

(Fat Possum; US: 29 Sep 2009; UK: import)

Like them or not, Be Your Own Pet had a bratty punk air about them that was simultaneously pretentious and totally earnest. Like they established a persona and then worked hard to live up to it in a very real way. It’s an underappreciated feat, since most bands don’t get far enough to live up to the personas they start with.


So it’s a small comfort to fans of all things bratty and energetic that, though Be Your Own Pet is gone, Turbo Fruits is carrying that sneering torch nicely. Now that frontman Jonas Stein doesn’t have his duties in Be Your Own Pet to worry about, Echo Kid shows him focusing in on the Turbo Fruits’ sound, which owes more than a passing debt to surf rock and sun-drenched pop.


While there is generally a more laid-back—in other words, stoned—feel to Echo Kid, there’s still the boundless energy Be Your Own Pet displayed. That edge has been sanded down to a sideways grin. “Naked With You” voices the wish, in all the Beach Boy sunny harmonies Stein and company can muster, to be, well, naked with that special someone. “On the Road” is all buzz-sawing guitars and nasal shouts about life on the road. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just what they’re doing, and they run it down with an unfettered zeal.


So sure, Echo Kid is an album of simple pleasures. This is party music about girls and getting high and wanting to get up or get down or get “some mo’”. But that doesn’t mean the music is always so simple. The absurdly titled “Mama’s Mad ‘Cos I Fried My Brain” is a bit of psych-pop genius. The vocals are heavily soaked in reverb, the guitar riffs surge after each verse, and voices come together to chant with a size unheard on the rest of the album. “Broadzilla” may be just as silly, but the thundering drums and ringing guitars add texture and depth to a song that may well not be about anything nearly as deep as it sounds.


In the end, Turbo Fruits prove themselves to be musically adventurous and actually quite ambitious on Echo Kid. The vocals always howl just right. The drums kill with a Moon-esque frenzy all over. And the guitars explore a number of textures from light haze to thick, moody fog. These impressive pop bursts may be in service to songs that aren’t the most thought-provoking you’ve ever heard. But there’s something to be said for a band that can hit you with the adolescent “Naked With You” and still win you over with the lovelorn charm of “My Stupid Heart” later on.


Stein is up against a number of imagined antagonists on this record. The echo kid has to contend with angry parents, the grind of the road, girls who break hearts, and not one but two huge boyfriends who don’t find his advances on their girls charming in the least. But through it all, Stein keeps that jester’s smirk—the drugs probably help—and launches headlong into his troubles. Or he runs from them, like a guy with nothing to lose. You might say that he has nothing to lose on Echo Kid because he doesn’t risk anything emotionally. But the music here—these tight compositions, subtle layers, and bracing energy—suggest that might not be entirely true.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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