Listen Up: Wednesday, March 20, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Turbonegro

Scandinavian Leather (Epitaph Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Just before imploding in 1998, these denim-clad Norwegian “deathpunks” released a strong candidate for the best Big Rock album of the ’90s, Apocalypse Dudes, which was recently reissued by Epitaph, along with Turbonegro’s earlier opus, Ass Cobra. Their notoriously unstable lead singer, Hank Von Helvete, went off to become an airplane mechanic, the best pre-Sept. 11 reason I could think of not to fly. (When Hank went mental just before a 1997 SXSW showcase, the other musicians put a Nazi helmet on one of their roadies and played the gig anyway.)

Last year, Turbonegro got together again for some European festival dates and wound up recording this album. A bizarre hybrid of the Village People and Alice Cooper (before he made it to The Hollywood Squares), their music is a burlesque of ’70s arena rock — the dramatic flourishes, the big guitars — with post-punk aesthetics (i.e., these boys like to play everything real fast).

Sure, you could go song by song and pick out all the bits they stole — some Ted Nugent here, some AC/DC there, a little Blue Oyster Cult, the obligatory soupçon of Stooges. Some people make a parlor game of it. But no one else steals riffs with the grandiose elegance and assurance these guys display. In fact, their deep-thinker/bassplayer Happy Tom (the guy in the sailor hat) might just be the genius he claims to be.

On Scandinavian Leather, they’ve toned down the homoerotic subtext in their lyrics — no more song titles like “Midnight NAMBLA,” “Rock Against Ass,” or “Rendezvous With Anus” — in what appears to be a bid for, uh, mass-ass stateside acceptance. Will American audiences go for it? Film, as they say, at 11.



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