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Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals

July 23, 2014



A couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine invited me to see Trampled By Turtles perform Wild Animals at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis (listen to the stream at The Current).  I can’t say I was a huge fan prior to that night, but I had purchased their last album Stars and Satellites when it came out and found it charming, but not mind-blowing.  I guess I dismissed them as “just” a novelty string band riding the vapor trails of various acoustic juggernauts (Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, etc.).

That night a the Cedar Cultural Center I heard something different – a band with a unique voice.  This might be a stretch of an analogy, but if Hüsker Dü was a brilliant pop band masquerading as a hard-core punk band, similarly Trampled By Turtles is a brilliant pop band masquerading as a string band.  “Brilliant Pop Band” is a big compliment in my book – Big Star is a brilliant pop band.

A few days later I picked up a CD version of the album ($8 for a CD vs. $20 for the wax – I guess I was not really that committed to the cause).  I have been listening to it every day for over a week now and it is not wearing thin.  TBT has officially captured my attention.

Low’s Alan Sparhawk has done what great producers are supposed to do with this album: bring their own point of view without overpowering the band and inspiring the band to go to new (but not unnatural) places.

The boys have toned down the string band machismo in favor of quieter more contemplative arrangements that focus on the song vs. technique and speed (although they occasionally throw a little bluegrass gasoline on the fire to remind the fans what they are capable of – just like the Replacements juxtaposing the punk sass of “Tommy Got His Tonsils Out” with the thoughtful pop art of “Androgynous” on Let It Be). 

I now find myself wondering about them.  I noticed on the CD case that all the songs are written by vocalist/guitarist Dave Simonett – has that always been the case?  How do the other guys feel about that?  What does it feel like to catch a little wind in your sails?  Do the guys feel Sparhawk had too much influence on the sound of the album?   Do they feel like they have sold out or that they have painted their masterpiece?  Hmm, now I am a TBT fan. Sure is fun to discover a band – even when you are late to the party and half the hip music fans in the state of Minnesota would likely say “no shit Sherlock.”




From → Music Reviews

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