Reckless Love – Turborider Review

Sometimes you just know when a record is for you. When it rises to the turgid surface of the promo sump using words such as “hair/sleaze/electro,” brazenly marketing itself with outrun pink and a cyborg character. I had absolutely no choice in picking out Reckless Love’s fifth full-length album entitled Turborider, in all its neon resplendence. Finland is not a country known for its excess, color and happiness and yet has somehow produced the most excessive, colorful and happy metal release you’ll hear all year.

The Reckless Love band photo illustrates the glam metal approach here, while the album artwork unsubtly divulges the unusual fusion of this with synthwave influences. This crossover, slathered from head to toe in 80s schmaltz, operates in my Goldilocks zone. It’s a synthesis I never expected, and I greedily devoured the record’s singles. The title track, “Turborider,” typifies the record’s characteristics. A pulsing synth opening gives way to passage when the guitars, drums and synths and rhythmically entwined, ramping up the excitement. As the verse arrives, the listener is treated to a Halford-esque cry and for one of the few points on Turborider you’re actively reminded that it is, substantially, metal. A frantic lead bounces and a brief solo shreds. The bridge and chorus also demonstrate that big vocal melodies are the hooks about which most of the songs are written.

That first run-through Turborider was great fun. I reveled in the ridiculousness of blending two completely separate sounds I love. But on second listen the sugar was too saccharine, even for me. The album is so bite-sized, so over-produced, so lyrically-superficial that it almost felt manufactured. I consigned it over the next couple of listens to stupid fun, unlikely to truly make a mark on a scene usually characterized by darkness and heaviness. “’89 Sparkle” is a dumb, flashy party rock track that genuinely reminds me of Aqua, of “Barbie Girl” fame. After three listens, I didn’t think that much would withstand repetition and scrutiny. And now here I am, fifteen listens later, admiring the legitimate songwriting chops behind the comedy. The sickly veneer masks a collection of songs boasting actual hooks and crisp structures. Reckless Love are economical above all else, writing with exactly as many solid bridges, choruses and solos as are required. “Outrun” is the stand-out, with a driving rhythm and the catchiest chorus of the bunch.

However, there are two drawbacks letting the release down. The first, and more fundamental, is the production. Each instrument is loud and proud in the mix, which results in nothing particularly standing out. Even though there’s a certain balance in that, it’s all loud, sterile and arguably obnoxious. This very much fits the music but it rubs me and my preference for analogue production the wrong way. The sterility also robs the guitars and drums of any crunch. The record’s lightness is partly a result of the songwriting but, given that most parts of the record feature both guitars and drums, is principally a result of the production choices. Instrumental tones are soft, clean and lack punch, and I’m left with the feeling that I would have edged higher with my score if I could bang my head a little more. The second drawback feeds off the first, as while the introductions and choruses tend to go bigger and heavier, the verses usually strip back any speed or riffs in order to expose the synth and vocal melodies. They’re uniformly the worst part of Turborider and offer unexciting pathways between better parts of the tracks.

In a year featuring just a couple of standout releases and a mass of mediocrity, it says a lot that I can’t leave Turborider alone. It’s a record you’ll almost certainly hate on first listen if you’re not also inhabiting my brain but one that eventually sinks its hooks. Reckless Love lack the requisite excellence to push into a higher award but I agonized for weeks over my score1. I doubt my current enthusiasm will last the year but Reckless Love have a lot of love to give2.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: AFM Records
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I don’t normally have weeks; the release was pushed by a month at short notice.
  2. This review is also the first time the great Aqua has been referenced on You’re welcome.
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