Early reviews of Turin Brakes’ third album, JackInaBox, have been unbelievably polarizing. While some British rags have been talking up the band as being more mature and settling into a style that suits them, others say they’ve become complete shit. Before even hearing the album, some readers will undoubtedly have a negative outlook on the matter. And if anyone’s expecting a re-hashing of The Optimist LP, then chances are there’s some disappointment ahead. This is a slightly different side of Turin Brakes than we’ve seen before, but fear not; it’s a good one.
The UK duo of Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian has all but abandoned their mope-folk past in favor of a sunnier, happy-go-lucky kind of pop music. JackInABox is a rather enjoyable album, exposing more of the band’s depth and diversity of sound. Though they do mine a `70s style sound on many tracks, it fits the band well. It’s not like they’re covering the Eagles or anything. But there’s a little bit of Steely Dan in the breezy “They Can’t Buy the Sunshine,” and for once, I’m actually okay with it.
The “oohs” and handclaps in “Red Moon” make for a whole lot of fun, but the song itself has a great, bouncy melody that rocks harder than Turin Brakes normally does. Actually, come to think of it, it’s the hardest they’ve ever rocked. Period. But the gentle, graceful “Forever” that follows is more like the Turin Brakes we’ve come to appreciate in the past. “Asleep With The Fireflies” is a bit funky, if a bit too long, but still grooves enough to be forgiven. And “Fishing For a Dream” isn’t too far removed from the full-band folk-rocking of 2003’s Ether Song.
In a way, I was sort of hoping that “Road To Nowhere” was a cover of the classic Talking Heads single, but as it turns out, it’s not. Instead, it’s a lovely original augmented by plenty of maraca shaking, the melody somewhat reminiscent of The Optimist‘s “Feeling Oblivion,” one of the band’s finest songs to date. “Over and Over” is heavier blues-based rock, quite similar to Gomez. And now that I’ve mentioned it, JackinABox on the whole sounds a lot like Gomez, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
JackInABox is nothing less than what we should expect from Knights and Paridjanian by now. There’s some old, there’s some new and there are a dozen great songs all in all. It’s probably safe to say that you know what you’re going to get with a Turin Brakes album by now, but then again, at the right moment, they can really catch you off guard.
Gomez – Split the Difference
Travis – The Man Who
Kings of Convenience – Quiet is the New Loud
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.