Turbonegro: Retox

First reviews of Turbonegro’s new record Retox are in. And chief ideologist Happy Tom (Thomas Seltzer) has shared some thoughts on the “Turbo” weltanschauung.


“Six cats from Norway killed the mouse / We saved rock and roll:” Thus rings the grandiose self-affirmation of Turbonegro on the track “What is Rock?” from the up-coming album Retox. But there is no denying that anticipations do in fact parallel the glitzy smugness of the band, and this is indeed the formula of their success; to create an upward spiral of self-aggrandizement and fan support; rooted exactly in these flagrant hyperboles in the name of rock.

And now the big day is drawing near; on Monday (June eleventh) Retox hits the streets; an event surrounded by carnivalesque expectations from the global Turbojugend of fans: The troops in the trenches of self-depicted outsiderism are finally about to indulge in the longed-for feast.

Retox marks a new phase for the band, so they claim: after the completion of the so-called Apocalypse trilogy comprised by the three preceding albums Apocalypse Dudes, Scandinavian Leather and Party Animals -all of which were thematically distinct- Retox is supposedly a more theme-less self-affirmation of the band as it is today: “Motherfuckers just being themselves.” This is the conclusion of word-smith and chief ideologist Happy Tom (Thomas Seltzer) discussing the “Turbo universe” in Norwegian daily Dagbladet.
He goes to lengths to draw lines both long and obscure from the Turbonegro textual mantras, seemingly so pubertal, to what he calls the “Tel Aviv trinity” of Jewish outsider genius-idiocy represented by Iggy Pop, The Ramones and Kiss, but also further; to epochs of great ideological turmoil; the kind of intellectual punk he finds in the thought of Walter Benjamin and the inter-war years in Germany: “Weimar politics, metaphysical boloney, Marx, hashish and blues.”

More convincing perhaps, or at least in need of less charitable reading, is his reference to Michel Houellebecq and the depiction of Turbonegro as machine-man (Houellebecq’s universe is one of the capitalization of all emotion) in his Latino fun-loving manifestation.

Drawing up such a grid of reference and such subtlety of content does of course stir up expectations to the songs themselves, even if one may get a feeling of strained attempts at telling us that everything about a Turbonegro song is carefully measured and that there can never be a question of musical and artistic shortcomings or predictability.

The first reviews of Retox are in, and they leave the question undecided. The daily Aftenposten’s critic finds that the album seeks to rekindle the juvenile zeal of the late nineties; what was to become the band’s heyday in the retrospective light of the following breakdown, but that it is void of the essential lustful spark. The result is self-imitation rather than re-invention. Formalistic simplicity is made less endearing by grand production, and sing-along baseness is more embarrassing than spunky.
What still saves the album, he concludes, giving it his conditioned recommendation, is the convincing drive; the sheer fullness of the piratal Ahoy! ; Merry flirtations with heavy metal and pro bono recycling of glam punk. But most of all Turbonegro is saved again by being a super-guitarist band. “Euroboy” Knut Schreiner’s six-string extravaganza is the pop and sparkle that makes the old ingredients of the ale foamy and delightful yet again.

So, in terms of thirst and its quenching, the fans will surely have something to drink deeply of with Retox; and the result of that is always the same. The party summer is secured!

This week Turbonegro embark on their summer tour with two initial gigs in the UK: June 7th: Islington academy, London, June 8th Download Festival, Birmingham. Further on they will play a number of the big festivals such as Hultsfred in Sweden, Norway’s Quart and Wacken Open Air in Germany. They will also support Metallica when the monsters of rock come to Oslo on July 10th.

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