Format Reviewed: CD
And the prize for Best CD Packaging of the Month goes to... Chicago's Millimeters Mercury, whose Turbo comes in a fastidiously reproduced oversized facsimile of a floppy disc, complete with retro-pictorial warnings of how not to handle your new purchase (no touching, no bending, no magnets). Inside, the band (and their arch-nemesis, The Rocktopotamus) are depicted in vintage 8-bit graphic form, recalling the aesthetic simplicity of Dig Dug. A disc this well-presented has a daunting first impression to live up to, and while the band's beautifully discordant post-punk is generally impressive, it falls just a bit short of being truly groundbreaking.
It bounces and lurches, it fills the spaces it creates, it does everything you'd ask from a demonstrably post-modern band and yet... it all adds up to a disc that has trouble making a lasting impression. Part of the issue could be the transient and evolutionary nature of the music itself. Millimeters Mercury aren't married to the verse-chorus-verse tradition, the three-chord progression or even a standard jazz structure; Turbo's only constant is change. The band prefers the unscripted route through transformative song structures, ensuring that each song becomes its own animal. Such conceits, as Kane Hodder are proving in the hardcore world, make for acrobatic songs that require multiple spins in order to build a rapport with a listener. Fortunately, Millimeters Mercury have the chops, concepts and pure energy to encourage repeat exposure without losing their luster.
I'll also admit that my failure to connect with Turbo on a profound level could simply be a matter of overexposure. I've heard so many bands in the past year or so who are traveling down the same musical path (though rarely as engagingly as Millimeters Mercury) that even when an album gets it right -- as Turbo frequently does, especially on the rock operatic, album-ending "The Rocktopotamus Theme" -- it's becoming increasingly difficult to separate the band's successes from the thrills found on similar albums. This is why I strongly suggest giving Turbo a spin on your own, particularly if you've typed the word "discordant" less than five times in the past calendar year -- it's a smart, charming and challenging album whose finest tricks are best discovered new.