Release Date: Sep 29, 2009
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alternative
Nashville guitar-slinger Jonas Stein was still in his teens when his first band, bushy-tailed pop-punks Be Your Own Pet, became a big enough deal to take him out on tour all over the world; after their breakup last year, his Turbo Fruits power-trio side-project became the priority, and now their second album arrives brimming with even more pep than BYOP. At times Echo Kid comes across like Creedence Clearwater Revival played at hardcore punk tempos, letting fly with super-strength riffs that are part fuzzed-out roar, part Nashvillian twinkle, and yet never seeming to fall back on standard-issue garage-rock retro-ism. Stein's endlessly engaging melodic style gives nods to Bowie and even Elvis, plus there's a sprinkling of psychedelic dynamism now and then, and a whole lot of songs about cars and girls.
Even though they were at home on the Ecstatic Peace roster (thanks to guitarist/singer Jonas Stein’s other band, Be Your Own Pet, being signed to the label), Tubo Fruits have always belonged on (mostly) blues label Fat Possum. They may shit-kick harder than every other band on the label (minus maybe Wavves), but Turbo Fruits are just as bluesy as they are punky. Their self-titled debut had a bleary-eyed downer about not having enough drugs, and if that’s not a 20-year-old’s vision of the blues, I don’t know what is.
Turbo Fruits started off as a Be Your Own Pet side project, and that was obvious enough on their self-titled debut album from 2007. Sure, BYOP were a rowdy bunch, but without frontwoman Jemina Pearl to keep the boys classy, they were given license to get even more lewd and obnoxious than usual, and the result was a record that was like the musical equivalent of a filthy off-campus apartment shared by a bunch of gleefully immature young single dudes. Echo Kid, the band's first album since Be Your Own Pet's dissolution last year, is a bit different.
Echo Kid was released by a different label (Fat Possum) and featured a lineup that was two-thirds different than the band that recorded Turbo Fruits' self-titled debut. Despite these fairly significant changes, the band tweaked its sound only slightly on its second album; the twang in founding member Jonas Stein's vocals and guitars still comes through loud and clear on "Trouble!," while "Lotta Lotta Ladies" and "Dear Moses" are just as rambunctious as anything on Turbo Fruits. However, it feels like Stein and company (including bassist Wes Taylor and drummer Zack Martin) tried harder this time: their playing is tighter, and even with song titles like "Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain," the stoner vibe is a lot less noticeable.
Like them or not, Be Your Own Pet had a bratty punk air about them that was simultaneously pretentious and totally earnest. Like they established a persona and then worked hard to live up to it in a very real way. It’s an underappreciated feat, since most bands don’t get far enough to live up to the personas they start with. So it’s a small comfort to fans of all things bratty and energetic that, though Be Your Own Pet is gone, Turbo Fruits is carrying that sneering torch nicely.