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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feverish with emotion
Without receiving much publicity, Turin Brakes have steadily built up an impressive fanbase on the base of this remarkably assured debut album. This is a collection of shimmeringly beautiful songs, all drenched in the glorious emotion of modern life.
What sets this band apart from the others that they were initially lumped in with is their startlingly acute emotional...
Published on 7 Mar 2003

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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars patchy at best
After all the hype, after all the praising reviews and after a fair number of recommendations from my friends, I finally got my hands on the Turin Brakes debut LP. And I was severely disappointed. It's only good in parts, these being all the singles plus 'Feeling Oblivion' and 'State of Things'. The rest are all pretty similar, and I hate to say it, dull. I wish I...
Published on 18 Nov 2001 by johnnypoindexter


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feverish with emotion, 7 Mar 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
Without receiving much publicity, Turin Brakes have steadily built up an impressive fanbase on the base of this remarkably assured debut album. This is a collection of shimmeringly beautiful songs, all drenched in the glorious emotion of modern life.
What sets this band apart from the others that they were initially lumped in with is their startlingly acute emotional touch - the ability to find exactly the right words, and at exactly the right time, so as to send a shiver down anyone's spine.
Opener Feeling Oblivion is a summery, gentle piece of guitar-pop, quietly embracing a sense of escapism ("If things get real, promise to take me somewhere else"). The breakthrough single Underdog (Save Me) follows, probably the most instant song on the album thanks to punchy guitar work and a wonderful chorus (and one of the most brilliant acoustic guitar solos ever). Even when the lyrics become oblique on this album, as they frequently do, Olly Knight's sensational vocals make them vibrate with feeling.
Future Boy is a standout, with a soft, lush soundscape unfolding into the distance. Even though it's unclear what it's all about (references to STDs, monkeys, information saturation and time travel all melt into each other), it's almost unbearably poignant, resonating with the power and sadness of lost dreams and friendships, especially when Knights sings, "Oh, s***, I'm gonna miss my friends," and the writhing, passionate final chorus is amazing.
The Door is all dry, twangy guitars and dark, haunted lyrics ("I watch the boiling sea meet the open sky, but my soul feels like it's ice"), and the desertscape artwork captures it well.
Another superb standout is State Of Things, a heartbroken journey through a relationship at breaking-point. It features one of the best lyrics on the album, encapsulating perfectly the emotional exhaustion ("All things must end, yeah, but I can see my fate in your eyes"), and the strange bounce of the chorus only serves to increase its power.
Turin Brakes capture the highs and lows of city life with consummate ease, and the album is full of such sound effects; a telephone ringing at the start of the stark, sad By TV Light, a page turning, and then a door slamming, at the end of Mind Over Money.
Slack, the only song to use electric guitar extensively, is the angry, scruffy cousin of Starsailor's Good Souls, and contrasts sharply, but well, with the rest of the album.
It's not a perfect album (very few are, least of all debuts); Emergency 72 lacks the fire or intensity of the other songs, and Starship, completely untypically of this band, is melodically and emotionally bland (I've tried, and failed, to wring a drop of meaning out of the lyrics). But any doubts about Turin Brakes' quality should be blown away by the last three songs. The Road dreams of distant, picturesque highways, but returns to the pretty suburbian summertime for its chorus ("In the garden, where the evening sky lights up my room"). Again, the guitar work is lovely, and the effect of the sweet strings (here, and on Feeling Oblivion) cannot be overestimated.
Mind Over Money is led in and out by imposing piano chords, and the lyrics move closer and closer to Michael Stipe's stream of consciousness ("Internal combustion, can that really happen?"). The "grand scheming sky" referred to in the lyrics reflects Turin Brakes' musical visions; sweeping, widescreen and full-colour.
But it's the title track and closer, The Optimist, which epitomises the album best. Gently plucked guitars and possibly the loveliest melody on the album are fused with lyrics that bring out the full irony of the song's title. Knights sings with deceptive innocence, especially when his lyrics reflect on "cracked skulls with a creepy mind inside", and the chorus brings the album to a suitably downbeat end, "There's no escape, lonely planet."
This is an album feverish with emotion, simultaneously sweet and heartbreaking, an album which sounds perfect in the half-light of the hours between day and night. It's an album of fantastic visions juxtaposed with the equally powerful realities of life - the intensity of relationships and the strange, dark beauty of the world we live in.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect, 5 April 2005
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
From the opening lines - Cubscouts are screaming, needing icecreaming & all the pleasures of June - this is a beautiful, elegiac album, perfect for a warm summer's day. Full of melodic and serene acoustic numbers, the tempo never too high, you can turn it up loud and not disturb the neighbours. Pour yourself a gin & tonic, sit outside and slide into the melancholic beauty of the best debut album of the last ten years. The final track, The Optimist, is the most exquisite song of a superb set.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A provocative, yet soothing blend of acoustic!!!, 20 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
As soon as I had heard 'Mind Over Money', I knew that these lads had talent. It's harrowing and somewhat hardbitten lyrics merge sensationally with a high, soaring vocal. The somewhat 'suppressed' verses are released by the energetic and heart-rendering chorus. 'Feeling Oblivion', the opening track, acts as refreshing taster of what's to come. For me this is the best of them all. It's tame but powerfully provocative lyrics hide behind a 'summery', innocent face.
Rolling on seeminglessly past many blissful tracks such as 'Underdog (save me)', the LP seems to ooze in talent. Bouncy riffs charge you with energy in such tracks as 'the door' midway through. 'Mind Over Money' acts like a climax to an LP that is fuelled by angst-ridden vocals and musical brilliance.
Truely amazing, these are a band who can produce excellence whilst sounding very original.
Melancholy in it's most healing state...
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted melodies from the Indie boys, 30 Aug 2001
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
Ahhh,...aren't they sweet. You can but help liking these guys, especially just after they have produced one of the best albums of the year. The Duffel coated pair from South London have delivered a excelently well-rounded record, a bit of country and a whole lot of Indie with wonderfull acoustic guitar. Ollie and Gale have sewn together this album so smoothly you can hardly see the stitch marks. The standout tracks are 'Emergency 72', sung to perfection by Ollie Knights,'Feeling oblivion'
again where the vocal stand out crystal clear, and finally the fantastic 'Mind over money'. The duo have an amazing talent of fitting their voices together in perfect harmony every time and Gale's guitar work polishes each song to perfection. This is however a grower, enormously... take the C.D on an extremely long journey and listen to it on continuous play. Ah,..oh yeah and just skip 'By T.v light' altogether.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They're Something else.........., 23 July 2002
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
Like most people, the first Turin Brakes material that I heard was underdog (save me). I can't fault this track, but don't make your mind up about Turin Brakes on the merits of this song alone, wait until you have listened to the album.
The album proves that this is not a band who will fit easily into a specific genre. They have been compared to some current indie/rock/pop bands, but it would be a shame to miss out on such a great piece of work because you thought you had heard it all before. Turin Brakes have a certain something else, an X factor that I can't quite put my finger on.
The Optimist combines beautiful music, talented vocals and insightful lyrics to create an album that leaves you asking yourself why the hell it took you so long to discover them.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Beauty, 31 Aug 2001
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
I saw Turin Brakes at V2001 a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was far too out of it to actually remember what they were like, but I do recall saying repeatedly to my friend that they were amazing and to remind me that I liked them otherwise I'd forget... I was able to keep it together enough to buy the album the next day and find out exactly why they'd made such a big impression. Quite simply, it's because they go with the concept of less being more and have a massive impact because of it. They demonstrate a range of sounds and feelings with acoustic guitars that many bands would have a problem matching using all the electronic sounds available to them. Each song has a raw power of its own and sweeps you away to get lost in it. There's the odd clanger in the obscure lyrics (syphilis is a bitch, but contracting HIV is much worse. Come on lads - you can do better than that!) but overall, they add to the building up of an evocative mood picture rather than a straightforward boy meets girl type story which leaves you needing to listen to it over and over again to try and recapture the elusive feelings they bring out.
Don't compare them to Coldplay, Travis or anyone else. They stand alone and should be in every self respecting music fan's collection.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put this on in your car on a long journey, 22 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
I had the pleasure of seeing these guys live in Stuttgart recently, and they were simply sublime. The musical stomping ground for this band is close or often the same as that of other UK bands like Coldplay, Travis, and Radiohead. A music magazine once described this genre as "Introspective guitar groups" or words to that effect. Although this characterization carries a negative undertone, it should not be mistaken with anything negative. I admit that once seeing them live, I am biased. The singer's voice is powerful with a throaty rasp edge but with enough depth to give it a warm bluesy quality. Most of the guitarwork is acoustic. The acoustic feel really comes through on "Underdog (save me)": , where the guitar solo could literally arouse you sexually...it's that good! "Emergency 72" is another great standout track where the play between voice and guitar reaches poetic proportions. The whole album is just a joy to listen to..A must-buy CD.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Records this good aren't made every year!, 15 Aug 2001
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
I have to admit finding the correct words to open up my account of this most wonderful collection of songs, is damn near impossible. Indeed upon listening to the opening song 'feeling oblivion' its as if you have revisited a long lost friend. Its damned emotive stuff and although favourites will be picked by individual listeners its the album as a whole that shine most brightly. The lyrics are obscure, but trickily done so as to let the listener draw their own conclusions. The whole thing feels like it could have been written at any time in the last 30 years, which immediately gives it a timeless feel. The only comparisons I could give would be someone like the Jayhawks, at time moments of Coldplay yet much more superior. I listen to a hell of a lot of music and this is the best thing I have heard in years. Do your ears a huge favour, these guys deserve to be massive! I imagine I will be listening to this in 30 years time, but then again I'm an optimist!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Quality First Album, 22 April 2003
By 
A Biochemist (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
A friend introduced me to the Brakes about six months ago and I haven't looked back. Two concerts later and they are still doing everything right. They have a sound that is very much their own and do not seem afraid to experiment with their voices or instruments. Perhaps a touch of U2 meets Radiohead. This is an album that I will never tire of listening to and that can nurture such a wide range of moods and emotions. Brilliant! If you only buy one album this month, buy this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plastic Folk soaring above the competition, 13 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Optimist LP (Audio CD)
Straight out of nowhere, Turin Brakes' quietly accomplished debut recalls those of REM or Jeff Buckley: this is the kind of album which seeps into the small hours and quiet moments of your day. It might not distinguish itself on a first listen (it might even dredge up traumatic childhood memories of Del Amitri), but before you know it you're drawn in and it won't leave you. It's easy to see why, after three EPs and a handful of captivating live shows, the debut from Olly Knights and Gale Paradjanian has been pencilled in as one of the albums of the year. There are some fully fledged classics here already: opener "Feeling Oblivion" is An understatedly devastating meditation which lulls you into the Brakes' style, and the quirky desert rock of "The Door" makes for a sublime and unique journey. And The Voice is breathtaking: Olly Knights can embody angst, hope and weariness in one phrase. You can hear it in the Buckley flight grounded by a vinegar rasp on "State of Things", or the transfixing timbre which elevates "Underdog" above the Neil Young plod it could have been. And "The Optimist LP" reveals a remarkably accomplished musical vision, a forward-looking acoustic sound that transcends the roots of this rootsiest of musics. As well as the ubiquitous strum and slide, balalikas, Spanish guitar, piano tones, orchestration and blues licks float in and out of the mix, creating a unique texture divorced from traditional forms. Turin Brakes' aesthetic is a kind of Plastic Folk- the closest parallel is with Radiohead, but Turin Brakes are more Douglas Coupland than Noam Chomsky: they include a warmth & humanity missing in the former's crisis of (post)modernity, a search for soul in the neon lit desert on the album cover. "Starship" is a beautiful moment of Nick Drake suspension, filled with wonder at the possibilities of space travel, while the sub-aquatic comedown of "By TV lights" draws the exquisite from the banal. The music may be downbeat, but the album title is far less ironic than it might at first appear. There are faults, however. The lyrics too often slip from intrigue into alienating obscurity, and the space age Folk of "Future Boy" is soiled by such ham-fisted wisdom as "syphilis is a bitch but contracting HIV is much worse". And as the album progresses, the direction wavers: the pedestrian slide workout of "Slack" and the generic 70s folk rocker "Mind Over Money" diminish the impact of the album's finer moments.
Perhaps it's the impatience of the all-consuming marketplace demanding a premature product, perhaps you always have to take the rough with the smooth. No matter: this is that rare and precious thing, a debut which delivers the unexpected and promises more. And when Turin Brakes' vivid vision reaches fruition, they will be scaling the heights of the greats. The future looks good.
Leo, Norwich
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The Optimist Lp [VINYL]
The Optimist Lp [VINYL] by Turin Brakes (Vinyl - 2001)
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