By: Zachary Kolesar
“Shut up and dribble,” a comment made by a talk show host in response to the activist efforts of LeBron James, brought up a discussion this past week: where should athletes, musicians, artists, etc. draw the line when speaking out against injustices.
The answer is nowhere, and the art-as-activism movement is rising again in Columbus. This past Friday, Columbus rock-and-rollers The Turbos’ shared its first single and video (on Wednesday) of a six-song series title “‘Murica.” A message is communicated, and guitarist/vocalist Alex D., bassist Cameron Reck, guitarist/vocalist Lucas Esterline and drummers Austin Nill (video) and Steven Bustos (studio) clearly get across a passionate, pertinent communiqué.
Echoing a sentiment felt by so many musicians who have felt their freedom of speech threatened, The Turbos are using its voice to make a change. While “‘Murica” knocks at the door with heavy riffs, it settles a bit to let Alex air out some grievances. The vivid, disorienting video, which was shot by Caden Huston and directed by Alex, that also accompanies “‘Murica” starts to focus when he steps up to the mic.
Behind Alex, a background projection depicts an upside down black-and-white American flag with “‘Murica” prominently written in blood red. Images of police brutality juxtapose the communication methods The Turbos are using on its first single of the series.
While some may have taken the wrath of the Old Testament route, The Turbos handle social issues by spouting truth on ongoing and dangerous societal issues, organically trying to spark a change.
Also capturing a strong essence of garage rock, the venue—combined with spotty footage of police harm—displayed in “‘Murica’s” video matches The Turbos tenor of wanting to be heard and inspire a movement; one that preaches unity.
While many people’s perception of and experience in America cannot be seen through all eyes, the message can and should reach the masses. Alex dishes out hard-casted, biting truths over silky, angsty vocals such as “Take our lives off in living rooms/ Lay us in the streets baking from sun to moon,” and mocking American promises like Esterline's chorus, “Oh, say can you see/ They can tell us what to be.”
As the song progresses, the drumming becomes more subtle, while Alex breaks out into his second verse with a voice fit for grunge and fluidly audible.
While the first few seconds of “‘Murica” captures the true essence of head-banging rock-and-roll, the track mellows out near the end, slowing down a bit with Esterline and Alex's repetition “Oh, say can you see,” sounding somewhat reminiscent of Soundgarden.
As focused as one would like to stay on the lyrics, the lack of smiling on set, laughs exchanged between bandmates is absent from “‘Murica’s” music video. The Turbos are about business and telling the masses of Columbus—and beyond—that we all need to wake up and see the wrongdoings in our world and see what we can do about it.
If the first two-minutes-and-change did not challenge your perspective of presenting social activism through music, the final 90 seconds are a wild ride. The thumping drumming acts as the heartbeat to flashy guitars, which leads to a relatively calm outro as compared to the thrashing listeners are introduced to.
But there is a reason for that. Alex has another very important message at the end: “Hate is extracted/ Time to react.”
The Turbos will not shut up and play music.
Each of the next five Turbos’ singles will be released on the third Friday of every other month. The next single is due out April 20th. The Turbos will be playing with The Worn Flints and Frances & the Foundation at Spacebar on March 22. Ticket information will be released soon.