Let’s get it out of the way nice and early so that this review can continue to be productive. When it comes down to it, no matter who you are, Lynyrd Skynyrd was a fucking tight band. You can try to pretend you don’t like them or don’t feel a sudden urge to belt out “Tuesday’s Gone” every time you hear it but realistically everybody else knows you are a fucking liar. And, you may be saying to yourself, that’s a great fact/opinion, but what does it have to do with Throttlerod exactly?
And the answer is a whole lot. Throttlerod, while honestly instantly bringing to mind 16 for me, is a Southern sludge band in the truest sense of the word. These are riffs meant to be played while you drive down a beautiful open country road, doing your best air guitar and trying not to get pulled over. However, where Throttlerod differs from their Southern sludge predecessors is that A. there is far more leaning into straight Southern rock (hence the Lynyrd Skynyrd reference) and B. a little bit of love for acts like Unsane. It’s admiringly a bit of a strange concoction as well as one that proves to be a rather slow grower. Despite this the record does eventually find itself becoming a fairly enjoyable listen and carries enough groovy riffs to earn itself a spot in any good open road playlist.
However, in many instances, not even Throttlerod’s insane ability to create the grooviest of licks can save them from some rather half baked ideas. Take for example the opening track, “Bait Shop”. Overall the track is a pounding, catchy Southern rock influenced sludge song and a strong opener for the album. What really drags it down though is the somewhat lackluster drum fade in at the beginning. It sounds less like the drums are supposed to be fading in and then the band laying over top and more that the producer made a mistake mixing. As mentioned above the song ends up turning out fine but the initial blow sets the momentum of the album as a whole back so far that it’s hard to really engage until about midway through the song. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily Throttlerod’s fault but regardless if the idea had been a bit more polished, it could’ve provided a much more noteworthy intro.
Furthermore, despite their obvious influence by noisey sludge acts such as Unsane, the execution of that influence is often lack luster. On track 3, “Never Was a Farmer”, at about 3:40, there is a section aching for some effect pedals. You can practically feel the band’s intention to do so, feel the song aching and calling for it, yet still it remains fairly vacant. Sure, a little bit of distortion is thrown on for good measure, but ultimately the song lacks that final oomph because the noise wasn’t just cranked up. It’s almost cruel to the listener as by that point it feels so desperately needed in the build to the final section of the song. Luckily, another tasty riff once again closes the track out but by that point it’s like your ex trying to apologize for cheating instead of having not cheated in the first place.
However despite all these seemingly half baked ideas, when Throttlerod delivers, they really fucking deliver. Perhaps there are no better examples than about the midway point of the album. With “Lima”, the band does some fairly simple vocal layering into a much more sludge driven song. The idea isn’t overly complicated but it feels so right in the context of the song that it’s hard not to succumb to the vibe of the song and just groove with it. Similar is the title track “Turncoat” which sounds a surprising amount like a very good Soundgarden ballad. Once again, however, it’s hard to care because by the time you’re comfortably in the groove they lay into you with a monster riff to end the track. Neither of these ideas are overly complicated but the execution is just so smooth that it’s hard not to smile to yourself as your pelted by grooves.
Overall, Turncoat is not a bad album. It feels a striking amount like an awkward, early pubescent child, struggling to find exactly where it fits in as it explores a wide range of possibilities. Does it want to groove with the stoners in the 16 shirts? Or does it want to go listen to Unsane until its ears bleed with those weird kids that don’t talk much? Eventually (around the second half of the album) it does a little bit of both, incorporating its groovier tendencies into its walls of noise, and the pay off is wonderful. However the build up to that point is a bit tedious and this causes the overall energy of the album to drag a bit. There are some stellar ideas here, and many can be heard through out the record, but what Throttlerod needs to work at now is having these ideas fight less and instead gel into a more coherent, powerful whole. God knows they have the talent to do it, and god knows it will be one monster fucking record when they finally do.