Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

A long time ago, as a little kid, I had this printing kit I liked. In actuality it was a collection of really small rubber stamps, each with a single letter or number etc. on — and you'd press them into a hand stamp one at a time, until you'd made a message like "Preston North End FC rule OK", or "I love Francesca" and then stamp it all over your school note book. Of course if you wanted to make a longer message, it would invariably take forever to assemble, and you'd always run out of this or that letter before you were done and have to try and figure out how to finish the message off quickly without using the letter 't' or 'o'. Spool forwards a few decades to the internet age, and it's probably a good thing html isn't coded the same way — otherwise I'd be sure to run out of my little bold-encoding and rubber stamps for all the bands the latest The Turn-Ons album has reminded me of over many an enjoyable listen.

So, that utterly irrelevant historical anecdote aside…

While Seattle's The Turn-Ons debut album drew comparisons to great British rock pioneers of the 60s and 70s, David Bowie and Marc Bolan (of T-Rex), their second, East, has similarly spooled forwards a few decades to draw upon the early sound of the Britpop genre of the late 80s and early 90s. Listening to each track conjures up a nostalgic feeling for many a great Britpop band, including early Verve, Pulp and Blur, as well as the likes of Ride, Chapterhouse, Supergrass, The Stone Roses, Lush and even My Bloody Valentine.

The Turn-Ons' three guitarists generate a hypnotic, layered sound, heavy on reverb, that washes over dreamy vocal lines as East opens with "Skyscrapers" and "New Jesus," reminiscent of Chapterhouse. While the ethereal vocals are never more apparent than on the acoustic "Won't come home", the best stuff here is in the middle of the album where East really hits its stride with the more melodic and rock-influenced "Feels alright", one of a couple of tracks that again harkens back to the Bolan era. Next up my personal favorite, the wonderful "PS I love you", which sounds like a glorious cover of that never released Ride song (with Kevin Shields (MBV) a guest on guitar), right down to its minimalist lyrical content (a Ride trademark). This is followed by "Neighborhood killer", the most obvious tip-of-the-hat to Marc Bolan and "This is the end", which similarly sounds like a long-lost Damon Albarn song (Blur). Eventually the lazy "Sunday afternoon" brings down the tempo with a soothing melody that reminds me of Pink Floyd's "Wot's…uh the deal" from "Obscured by Clouds" (which should have subsequently been renamed "Obscured by Dark Side of the Moon"). Finally, East closes out with "Sideways", which not only returns to the layered guitar reverb of the opening track "Skyscrapers", but with a stylish twist also reuses some of the lyrics from it.

Ultimately, being reminiscent of so much without ever sounding like trying be like anyone in particular, The Turn-Ons show that they have managed to assimilate their various influences into a style very much their own. I really like this album and I suspect any fan of the Britpop heyday would welcome a fresh take on the era.

Time to stamp "The Turn-Ons Rock" all over my notebook…