Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Turf War Takes Its Years Dangerously

When Turf War made the move from Augusta, Georgia, to Atlanta, it was one of the best decisions they ever made. The other, of course, was having guitarist Ian Staint Pé (The Black Lips) produce their debut album, Years Of Living Dangerously. 

John Robinson has never sounded better. After a few years working it as a solo artist, he and the full band that has since joined him are hard to beat. With a stack of regional shows lined up in February, expect to hear their name more often in the coming months. 

They've already earned a reputation for some knockout rowdy performances after supporting their debut album in December. They opened for The Black Lips and Vivian Girls last year, part of some earned perks just before gaining some attention at SXSW a few months earlier (where they met Rob Mason, owner of Old Flame Records).

At the time, their debut record didn't even have a name. But what they did have were four songs on a free EP and a killer live show. Between their punk-infused demos and sweaty stage presence, Turf War had all the makings of a band with the best of indie goodness.

In fact, all four demos did make the album. While the songs have a little more fuzz, a little less fullness, and a lot more polish, it's clear they haven't given up on the punk roots that have been recast as garage rock.

Years Of Living Dangerously is all anxious and dirty, dark but upbeat. 

Although the name Turf War suggests this is a tougher band than they are (it was the toughest name Robinson could think of at the time), the album cuts across the last days of everyone's younger years, when fun means drunkenness, recklessness, and as little responsibility as possible.

That doesn't mean they have produced a laid back party album. It means that these guys play every song as if they know all too well that such days are numbered. You have to make the most of every moment while you can.

Robinson feels it because he almost gave up music to become an electrician. The rest of the band knows it too. One of the most poignant songs on the debut underscores the sentiment. It was written for a dead friend. (The band did a See/Saw cover by Jay Reatard the night after he died.) There is no time.

This knowing, always present and lurking in the background, is precisely why the album works so well. It plays like a tug of war between being a mess and wasting your time versus getting your shit together and wasting your time.

Cheers To The Years is the song the band has been pushing in advance of the album. It captures all of their catchiness, and some subtle Southern influences.

There is much more to discover from this nearly undiscovered band. For The Last Time showcases their ability to bury emotive and somber vocals deep inside their upbeat instrumentals. Where I Belong throws punches at the idea of being trapped in a path of circumstance. A Little Harder This Time captures how it feels to be yanked in different directions, none of which are necessarily good.

If Years Of Living Dangerously can be summed as anything, it's that space between a rock and a hard place. It's knowing that life is too short to trudge through but wasting time and punching a time clock seems much the same. It sucks so you might as well have a good time.

Turf War does know a lot about good times. Even during their holiday hiatus, they composed a new song (not on the album) exactly where you might suspect. They did it in a garage or maybe a basement.

Turf War has been together as band for about three years, but Robinson first started it as a bedroom project back in 2007. The balance of the band includes Cecil Moss (guitar), Brian McGrath (drums), Brad Morris (bass), and Ian McDonald (who they added after working with him in the studio). McGrath, by the way, designed the album art.

Between booking shows and emptying bottles (or cans), they have a wry sense of humor. Follow their updates and you might see a shot of a random beef jerky store. The caption? Best day ever.

Years Of Living Dangerously By Turf War Hits 8.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is plenty more to like about the band. Robinson has always said they would rather have respect than ever be popular. In other words, they'll work it as long as they can to avoid the daily grind. We think it will be a long time before that happens. Maybe never.

Years Of Living Dangerously by Turf War can be download from iTunes. Years of Living Dangerously is also on Amazon. The entire album is worth the download. But if you do try to pick and choose, start with the ones mentioned in the review plus Bones, Enemies, and 100 Years.
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