The Night Before the Day the Earth Stood Still (Gearhead)
by Brian Varney
New Bomb Turks hold a very special place in my heart. They’re one of the best and most famous bands to come out of my adopted hometown of Columbus, Ohio, they’re solely responsible for pulling me back to the rock after my brief sojourn into “college rock” (the moment I first heard Information Highway Revisited was just one of THOSE moments), and they’ve been responsible for some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. They were the first punk band I’d ever heard that I really connected with; that sounded like I had always hoped punk music would. The first two albums (Destroy Oh Boy and Information Highway Revisited, both on Crypt) are unquestionably punk albums, but they’re punk rock and roll, music where you can hear the influence of Van Halen and The Rolling Stones sitting right alongside the ’77 punk.
What followed were three albums for Epitaph: The first, Scared Straight, flashed rapidly-improving songwriting chops, and for a brief moment, it looked like the Turks might be able to successfully make the transition from punk band to rock band. What followed instead was a regression to three-chord punk, albeit without the locomotive roar of the Crypt material.
So imagine my surprise at The Night Before the Day the Earth Stood Still. Though the album title leads you to believe that nothing has changed (the puns, always the puns), this is what should’ve followed Scared Straight. The punk background is still there, of course, but this is unquestionably a rock record. Matt Reber’s bass is the same ball of fuzz it’s always been, and the tempos chug along as nicely as ever (though drummer Sam Brown does get a chance to show off and play something besides sped-up polka beats), but this feels nothing like the rote-punk of the last two albums, most of which is due to the bump in songwriting.
The hollowed-out three-chord punkers that dominated the last two albums are replaced by well-crafted rock songs, the kinds of songs that caused bands like The Hellacopters and The Hives to worship these guys in the first place. “Like Ghosts,” the biggest surprise of all, finds singer Eric Davidson tossing aside the jester’s cap, pulling his hand out of his pants, and singing straight from the heart (no irony, no funny faces, no puns) while guitarist Jim Weber throws down some excellent accompaniment. It’s beautifully-rendered and, gulp, genuinely heart-rending. And, like the rest of the album, it’s an unmitigated triumph for a band whose days I thought were over.
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