Rock and Reprise.net
Forget that I am probably the Research Turtle's biggest fan outside of blood relatives. Forget that I gave their self-titled previous release my highest recommendation and even threatened a few people who refused to listen to it. Forget that I am an ego-ridden pompous ass who knows what is good and bad about music and the music business and thinks you don't. For the purpose of this review, all you need to know is that as good as I thought these guys were on that earlier album, they've upped their game.
Boy, have they upped their game! As much as I loved their crunchy and straightforward approach on Research Turtles, I am absolutely enthralled by the more layered and produced Mankiller Part 1. I mean, they kicked off Research Turtles with a punchy power chord which led into Let's Get Carried Away, a guitar-heavy intro interspersed with Searchers-inspired pop (listen to the vocals closely--- it's downright uncanny) and pounded their way through a list of songs which would have put them at the top of the seventies' New Wave acts, bands like Big Star and The Shoes and The Plimsouls to name just a few. I mean, I love that album. But you know what? I love Mankiller, too. And maybe more!
I admit to being taken aback a bit on first listen. After their slash and burn tactics they favored in 2009, I expected more of the same. It was, after all, what made them what they were, or so I thought. So imagine my surprise when they start Mankiller with a smooth, sugary sweet ballad--- and only a minute and fourteen seconds worth at that. You only need a minute or so catch one's attention with a really fine song and Girl Like You is certainly that, but it took me a minute to retune eardrums that expected a barrage of guitar. By that time, the song had led into a more rocking but still not balls-out You Are So, a rocker hybrid of maybe late sixties Brit Rock and REO. They then put me against the ropes with Bugs In a Jar, a slick and what I thought was overproduced love song. My head was spinning. In my ignorance, I had already written this review in my head and what I was hearing wasn't even close to what I had written. Thank the gods that they gave way to the rockin' Mankiller and Rhinestone Gal to finish the EP, I was thinking. At least they have that. Thing is, I wasn't thinking.
I am not one to give any album of interest a cursory listen before tossing it onto the reject pile. I listened again, of course, and then again. In fact, I listened many times and you know what? The more I listened the more I liked. Girl Like You with its aura of Prelude's version of After the Goldrush began to take on the aspect of an intro--- a prologue if you will, a perfect counterpoint to the punchy rock of You Are So, a song breathing life not unlike that of The Plimsouls or The Romantics. Overproduced? Did I really think that about Bugs In a Jar? Was I drinking? Not only is Bugs In a Jar not overproduced, it is produced to a virtual perfection. A romance song in the classic soft rock format, it floats on melody and outstanding vocal harmonies to an end which I can only compare to 10CC. The multi-leveled Mankiller, with its rock 'n roll beat and exceptional use of harmony vocals (kudos to producer for knob-twisting above and beyond the call), is a step away from the more raw sound upon which the band's reputation is based. That is a simple way of saying that there is much more there than what one first hears.
What can I say about Rhinestone Gal except that it fit my preconceptions to a 'T'. Crunchy guitars, primitive beat and hook. When it's right, you can't beat it and trust me, this is right. Two-thirds of the way through, they throw in bonus demonic laughs which lead to exceptional phase-guitar before the rhythmic romp to a class finish. This is The Riff Song (from their previous album) taken to its rightful conclusion. This is great stuff!
When I was young, I barely understood the concept of sequencing songs, although I certainly understood radio disc jockeys and their sometimes uncanny ability to arrange playlists that kept listeners hopping. Sequencing, for those unaware, is the arranged order of songs on an album or a playlist. Sgt. Pepper was my introduction to sequencing on a grand scale and ever since I have carried it in the back of my mind. I had never really thought of it in terms of a five-song EP, but now I do. The five on Mankiller work so well together from start to finish that I cannot imagine the songs played in any other order.
Limited time offer: Free Download. That's right. From now until May 31st (2011), Research Turtles are offering a free download of Bugs In a Jar. Download it. Listen to it. Sample the rest of their songs. Think of it as an opportunity to expand your musical awareness or just an opportunity to get something really cool for free. Just do it!
I believe in these guys. believes in these guys and even made the statement that if he was twenty years old again, Research Turtles is the band he would want to be in. Three people I trust and in whom I have total confidence when it comes to music--- Stanley Twist, Howie Wahlen and Sam Berger--- believe in these guys. I think I speak for them as much as myself when I say you should check these guys out. Right now, they're just four guys climbing a mountain. Tomorrow, they have a good chance of being the guys who climbed that mountain. See you tomorrow.
Ah, almost forgot. For those who doubt my credibility and just because I'm a nice guy, here are links to other reviews regarding Research Turtles. Happy reading.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
Supporting the Indies Since 1969