Turin Brakes Search for Something They Already Had with 'Invisible Storm'
For their tricky eighth album, Turin Brakes skip merrily through musical styles, hoping for the best.
26 Jan 2018
For their eighth album, Turin Brakes have had a little rethink about themselves. If you think you know what they sound like – beautifully played acoustic guitars, harmonies and a decent tune, lying somewhere between pop and folk, this album may make you doubt yourself. Invisible Storm overhauls their mission statement, but the results are a little bit wobbly in places. The album has a restless feel, shifting through styles in a way which shows off their versatility as musicians and skill as songwriters, but could leave listeners – including their long-term fans who have followed them through some dark days – feeling slightly bemused.
Thanks to a career rescuing collaboration with Take That, Turin Brakes have been able to continue making music after a pretty bleak period. On this album, it seems that the band are setting out their stall as writers of eclectic pop music, in an attempt to drum up some trade. Opener "Would You be Mine" would be perfect for some windswept, twentysomething female vocalist, looking to be the next Kelly Clarkson. Need something uptempo for Maroon 5? Here's "Wait", especially as it has echoes of OutKast's "Hey Ya" running through it – what's André 3000 up to now? Get him in as guest vocalist! Keith Urban would take "Always" to the top of the country charts, before you could say "whatever happened to Garth Brooks?" I'm sure you get the idea.
It would be unfair to expect a band to just attempt to recreate your favourite album again and again, but on this album, Turin Brakes seem to be trying on a number of suits to see if one will fit. Some of them look alright, but you probably wouldn't wear one for a first date. They've made the album they wanted to make, but I'm not sure the vast majority of their fanbase will share their enthusiasm. At times Invisible Storm sounds like a showreel – "look at what we can do! All those different styles!" This makes it a frustrating record.
On first listen, nothing here really sticks out as a "classic" – you're more concerned with keeping up with all the stylistic changes that occur almost with every song. Perseverance pays off and songs that you may have skipped over, like "Lost in the Woods", gradually muscle their way into your psyche, thanks to a gently insistent set of hooks. The final song, "Don't Know Much" is one of two or three tracks on Invisible Storm that would find its way on to your "Best of Turn Brakes" playlist. It's low key and lovely. If you're nostalgic for the early 2000's Turin Brakes, then there's always "Smoke and Mirrors" – a tune which would have sit nicely on The Optimist. But that track is in a very small minority here
Turin Brakes have made an album which is "OK". No dizzying heights or subterranean lows. You may raise an eyebrow every now and again, but nothing about this music grabs your attention and holds it. You may find yourself thinking "Is this still Turin Brakes?" in places, but if you heard it playing in a record store, you certainly wouldn't run up to the counter, demanding that you must have it immediately, whatever the cost. In its defence, it is a grower. The more you listen, the more the tracks open up and start to make an impression.
Where next? Who knows? The band have certainly kept their options open here. One of two things will happen – either the band, having got this out of their system, will make their next record sound a bit more like Turin Brakes, or the next American Idol winner will have a huge hit with "Would You Be Mine" and the band will retire to the Bahamas with the royalties. Is it cruel of me to wish for the first option?