On the album Glow On, Baltimore-based hardcore band Turnstile is interested in marrying traditional hardcore to the alt-metal and funk metal of the 90s, while also adding contemporary electronic, indie surf, and bedroom pop influences. They might appreciate a comparison to Rage Against the Machine, Jane’s Addiction, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but aside from vocal stylings which sometimes call back to Perry Farrell, Glow On skews closer in sound to the excess of late-90s alt-metal cringe which followed in these bands’ footsteps, and that cemented the reputation of the genre as a trendy gimmick at best.
A seasoned listener may be quick to realize that the formula of marrying hardcore to alt-metal is essentially redundant, in that many of these 90s alt-metal bands were already influenced by the genre, and often used riffs, progressions, and techniques ripped straight from punk- adjacent music, much like what Turnstile attempts here. In both cases, the polished production changes the context, mood, delivery, and sense of catharsis from the music, muting much of the visceral sensation found in more raw styles of hardcore. Even when the music is at its heaviest, the production takes the wind right out of its sails, rendering the breakdowns as coming off no heavier than any thrash section you’d hear on a 311 album.
Then there’s the vocals- interesting enough- which channel a cross between the aforementioned Perry Farrell and Surfer Blood but- is it really necessary to delay echo the vocals at the end of each verse? The trick is used so often throughout Glow On that it becomes absurd and at points downright grating.
That being said, there are some forward-thinking elements on this album, but they remain few and far between. The band does deserve credit for introducing drum machines and Latin rhythms to its core sound, but the idea ultimately sounds better on paper than in presentation, as it feels compositionally underdeveloped and awkwardly integrated in short bursts, thus allotting most of the run- time to the ever-familiar polished skate punk gallops and hardcore breakdowns.
Turnstile is most compelling when the band leans into mixing hardcore with indie surf pop influences, as best explored in “Underwater Boi” and “Alien Love Call,” but even these tracks, in their songwriting and production, call to mind other 90s worshipping pop acts such as Oliver Tree, who at least provides a “winking-at-the-camera” performance art element to his act. Another near-highlight, “No Surprise,” could have been an enjoyable contemporary pop track had they developed it completely, but it ends abruptly and awkwardly transitions into the next track.
It’s baffling that one of the more interesting tracks, the aforementioned “Underwater Boi,” is followed directly by the song “Holiday,” which is, without hyperbole, one of the most atrocious rock songs ever recorded. Imagine Dragons themselves could not cook up a track so vapid. The hook, with an obnoxious delivery at that, simply repeats “IT’S A HOLIDAY”, (can you guess that…they wanna CELEBRATE?) over the most sterile radio-ready breakdown that’s sure to make any number of children absolutely pumped for summer vacation and perhaps for their parents to buy them a Turnstile t-shirt. Another eyebrow-raising hook on this album arrives on WILD WRLD, where the melody AND vocal effects from Flo Rida’s “Low” are directly stolen, with seemingly no indication of self-awareness.
Put simply, Glow On, much like the music it nostalgically pines for, comes off cartoonish in its aggression and its emotion, while lacking in an abundance of over-the-top absurdity which might make it truly fun. Even if the point was “good time party nu metal” a la Limp Bizkit, it simply doesn’t work on that level because it doesn’t grab you with the kind of quotable lyrics from which memes are made. The lyrics here are vague, clichéd, and just kind of exist, so they can’t rise to that level of genuine emotion or catharsis, either. Although, if you’re truly moved by the done-to-death “fly again/get high again” couplet, there may be some stuff here that scratches your itch.
There are seeds of an idea present in Glow On that could have made it more interesting and potentially brilliant, namely if Turnstile had leaned into a more consistent and streamlined combination of their disparate influences, but the better ideas aren’t explored thoroughly enough, and merely sit like relish on top of the meat of an album which could have been delivered by any run-of-the-mill major label rock band in the year 1999. If one were truly turned onto this style of music, and want the authentic 90s experience, they could pick up a scratched up POD or 311 CD from a bargain bin and get a more rewarding experience with better hooks, composition, general songwriting, and yep, even with the same level of camp. Here comes the boom, ready or not, it’s a holiday.