The Turnstyles' Two-Cylinder Engine Revs To Life 

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Duos hold an honored place in the rock-and-roll pantheon. In the ’80s, the concept seemed obscure, though the moderate success of the Flat Duo Jets and House of Freaks served as a proof of concept that duos could indeed rock. Before those bands, aside from folk duet singers or other non-rock arrangements, who was there? Suicide, featuring Marin Rev and Alan Vega, formed as early as 1970, but it was a keyboard-led affair. For that quicksilver sound of a guitar paired only with drums, you would probably have had to rely on North Mississippi's She Wolf herself, Jessie Mae Hemphill.

The turn of the 21st century, of course, made the rock duo mainstream, with the ascension of first the White Stripes, then the Black Keys, to legit celebrity status. Many lesser-known bands have followed their example, but it's still relatively rare. Which makes the Turnstyles that much more refreshing.

Seth Moody (guitar) and Graham Winchester (drums) both play in other incarnations, including Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks, so they know a thing or two about a good arrangement. They've played local stages for some time now, but it was only this April Fool's Day that their debut, Cut You Off, was released on Bandcamp. Now the vinyl edition, pressed by Black & Wyatt Records, is out as well.

And the results are a true shot in the arm during these troubled times. If the White Stripes demonstrated that guitar/drum duos could be as heavy as Led Zeppelin, making much use of all that empty space between notes, the Turnstyles' approach is to swing the pendulum back to the frenetic, upbeat sound that earlier duos mined.

Yet, for all that, the basic sound is just good ol' rock-and-roll. The stylistic wheelhouse of the band seems like a less-is-more version of, say, the Flaming Groovies: basic riffs and chord changes evoking all the foundations of rock, from surf to country to Chuck Berry-esque story songs.

A few key elements ensure that these songs come across. For one thing, these guys are together, having tirelessly worked the club scene for so long, honing their arrangements. They can snap out of an unhinged noise wash into a tight chorus or bridge at the blink of an eye. Secondly, the guitar sounds are pitch-perfect. Perfecting a guitar tone is not an obvious thing, yet Moody has clearly done so. It's not gimmicky, in a cruddier-than-thou manner, just a solid, gritty twang that can jump from country to surf in a heartbeat. Fourthly, Winchester's architectural playing lends each song's different sections distinct personalities, elevating the sound beyond some ill-defined noise wash. And finally, both of these guys can sing, so even if it's just them yelling "Fish Taco!" in unison, it cuts through the wash and jumps out of the speakers.

All in all, it's a great party record, propelled by their familiarity with the breakneck pace of some Jack Oblivian tunes. If the doldrums are making you feel claustrophobic, it's the perfect platter to put pep in your step. 

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