Ghost image

MTV2 is awash with haircuts. It’s always been this way, of course. The very concept of the music video forces style on the viewer—often more strongly than the music itself. The end result is a parade of hipster haircuts cast in a variety of hipster locations. The Killers play in a garishly decorated bordello, Taking Back Sunday plays on a colored soundstage, and My Chemical Romance plays at a funeral. The general aesthetic is all very similar—strikingly so. Boys with guitars ape “rocking out” poses and shake their fancy haircuts while playing songs that sound like the song that came before and the song that will come after. (At least My Chemical Romance’s video is funny.)

It is difficult to break from this morass of modern rock. Bands playing in the genre so often simply mimic their predecessors. In a culture in which coolness is manufactured and marketed as cutting-edge, there seems to be little room for innovation and escape.

Local bands suffer from the same issues. There are some real standouts in the local modern-rock scene, but—as with the nationals—there’s more often too much of the same. It’s a shame, because some of these bands clearly have some talented musicians. Much of the time, a truly creative streak is buried under the photocopied aesthetic like a ghost image.

The Turnout has this ghost image, but, as with many modern rock bands, it is mostly hidden. This isn’t to say that the Turnout is a bad band, or even a mediocre one. In fact, during last weekend’s show at The Boardwalk, it proved itself to be musically capable for its style: an edgy, modern, pop-rock sound that is accessible and radio-friendly.

Nonetheless, the band only held this listener’s interest for one song. After that, boredom began to creep in. But even within that boredom, there were moments where I could feel my attention moving back to the stage. Each time it was momentary, and each time it was lost again. This finally came into clear focus in the last moments of the Turnout’s set, when the band moved into a longish instrumental section that provided a moment to savor the band’s true potential.

The Turnout is a four-piece band with two guitarists, a drummer and a bassist who takes up the vocal duties. During the louder, more rocking moments, the two lead guitars were more or less wasted. They created a thick, but really undifferentiated, wall of sound that was neither interesting nor musical.

However, in the comparatively quieter passages, such as at the end of the band’s set, the whole band really came together to form something musically interesting. Its tight, syncopated sound had overlapping high-register guitars picking through different chord voicing while the heavy bass and steady, minimal drumming continued to propel the music. It was sonically complex and vastly more interesting than the songs (which, again, were good but not really different in any significant way).

There’s real potential in the Turnout. It’s a band worth looking into, particularly if it’s still around at this time next year. Until then, see photographs of MTV2-ready haircuts at