By Liza Jill Meyers of Indie Band Guru
TUFF TURF may share its name with an ’80s movie starring James Spader, but this New Jersey new wave band’s new album HUNGER & HAUNT lingers in dense suspense: the inner turmoil of a character in the heat of the climax, a montage, trying to fix their fears.
The album begins with the character “searching the night for some place we can go.” From the onset, the electric beat and daunting bell-toned synth of “OUT ON THE STREETS” echo the Heathers score, ticking with a loss of time.
The thunderous dimensions of the drums thud like waves crashing, cymbals clashing. These stormy sea sounds smash against the faraway caved vocals and whirling background vocals, simulating the sound of The Lost Boys score.
TUFF TURF Takes a Dark Turn
“HELL IS IN YOUR HEARTBEAT” induces ominous foreshadowing misdirects the listener with pulsing synth beats over the steady metronome meter of the drums: “‘cause when you live in the hell, you can pray for yourself, try to live with yourself.”
Adding to this uneasy feeling is “NO FEELINGS/NO EMOTIONS.” Here, the character wrestles with trying to feel and failing: “there’s something wrong with me, really try to change and be as strong as me.”
Mirroring these sentiments, the airy sounds of a Children of the Corn chorus in the background create an eerie underlay to the fast lyrics and tunnel vocals, hollow cellblock-sounding synth, and heart-beating rhythm.
Generating a sense of urgency with rapid vocal patterns and drum beats, “LIE IN THE DARK” would be the song playing as the main character in our hypothetical film runs down hidden alleys with glittering pavement, past midnight, threat at their back: “kick you out of this dark, it’s really up to you.”
“WE’RE NOT LIKE OTHER WOLVES” intensifies with higher harmonies, clapping percussion, and snappy synth, a modern tie-in to the past and the character’s acceptance: “some people want to waste their time making excuses, to me that’s the sign of the times, to me it’s useless.”
With the layer of vocals behind the lead, an uplifting unity empowers the song, ending with wolves roaring like a motorcycle engine revving.
“DIGGNING MY OWN GRAVE” ensues with crying tormented vocals juxtaposed with a bright and cheery video game quality from the synth; picture the Dark Land level from Super Mario Bros. 3. Still battling inner demons, the character is left with their “last resort”: “that’s my only option, I’m digging my own grave.”
Bringing back the unnerving nightmare once again, “SCARED TO KNOW ME” is a reminiscence on how “you didn’t know me, because those who know me wish they didn’t know me; I’m too closed out.” The synth again vibrates with a Halloween monster sound and the lower background harmonies breathe in a ghostly whisper.
As the album ends, the versatility and the emotional range of the synth highlight the suspense of an exciting emotional break and the rebuilding of a more comforting energy. “YOU’LL ONLY BE SAFE WITH ME (THE DARK)” has a placid melody, like a clearing of thought, and a clarity of chorus sounds in the background:
“Be safe, be safe with me,” is a plea for peace, a plea to be free.