To me Turin Brakes are like an old friend I’ve lost regular touch with over the years that I bump into in my local one evening. We’ve not seen each other for a while, but after some initial awkwardness, we end up having one of those nights out that sticks in your memory and reminds me why they always make me smile. We may not see each other again for a few more years, but hell, when we do catch up, we’ll have yet another great time. We don’t have to keep track on what’s happening in each other’s lives too closely, because we know at some point our paths will spontaneously cross again, and we’ll pick up pretty much exactly where we left off.
The last time I encountered Turin Brakes in 2010, they had just released Outbursts, which had been spearheaded by “Sea Change”, to my ears one of their finest singles and one of the most beguiling of lost gems in modern British folk-rock. It was great stuff, and it confirmed that after a few years of peaks and troughs following their well received debut album, they had found a level of equilibrium which allowed them to progress their career on their own terms, rather than trying to adjust their sound to meet the whims and expectations of radio.
Almost six years and another album later and I’ve recently encountered Turin Brakes again, just as they’re preparing to release Lost Property. So have they maintained their equilibrium and sense of creative balance on their new album? I’m more than pleased to say that they have and it confirms that their best work is far from behind them, but that they continue to steadily and methodically build up a body of work which is comparable to the very best folk-rock acts of the last twenty years.
Where many acts seventeen years into a career that has seen them achieve modest commercial success would be more than happy to dial in material or retreads of a proven formula, Lost Property may very well be the most satisfying of Turin Brakes’ career. There’s certainly no shortage of great Turin Brakes tunes, with the first third of the album drawing you in and reminding you exactly why you like this band so much and preparing us for “Rome”, a song that confirms that they’re still more than capable of penning substantial hit singles. It’s a song which is destined to become a live favourite with irresistible guitar hook and chorus combo, as well as an undeniably commercial edge which Turin Brakes have used to good effect throughout their career on songs like “Underdog (Save Me)”, “Painkiller”, and the aforementioned “Sea Change”.
“Rome” doesn’t overshadow the rest of Lost Property though, as the careworn “Save You” and the stripped back “Martini” are easily as good as anything that Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian have penned in their careers. Also of note is “Hope We Make It”, a tune which, vocals aside, you could easily mistake for being an unforgivably obscure Neil Young number – It’s the most obvious reference to North American folk / roots rock on Lost Property, though repeated listens also hint at a subtle Tom Petty influence, and I’m sure time will reveal others as you return to this album.
Lost Property ends with “Black Rabbits”, a tune which I couldn’t figure out if I liked at first – it initially seems an oddly downbeat note to end an album on, at least until about four minutes in, where a wave of sound engulfs you and seemingly drags you overboard, where you will seemingly be abandoned until a vocal lifebelt is thrown to you in the last minute and drags you back onboard, leaving you breathless and wondering what the hell happened. It’s not something I ever expected to experience on a Turin Brakes album, but then again, it’s those old friends that you don’t keep in touch with you that have the habit of springing the most memorable surprises on you. Hell, you may not see them again for a few years, but you know when you do, they’ll make you smile.
Lost Property will be released on 29 January 2016.