Home Read Classic Album Review: Turbonegro | Scandinavian Leather

Classic Album Review: Turbonegro | Scandinavian Leather

On their fifth full-length, the Norwegian scuzz-hounds are everything a truly great rock band should be. And everything that’s been missing from the scene for too long.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Turbonegro are evil. Sick. Disgusting. Gross. Perverted. Immoral. Loathsome. Sickening. Offensive. And just plain stupid. In other words, they’re everything a truly great rock ’n’ roll band oughta be. And everything that’s been missing from the scene for far too long.

In today’s universe of cuddly-toy pop stars and ambitiously careerist rock whiners, these veteran Norwegian scuzz-hounds stand out like Marilyn Manson at a Boy Scout Troop. Clad in the finest form-fitting dungarees, sporting sailor caps, aviator shades, top hats, gleaming German helmets from World War II, smeared mascara and more rouge than your little sister’s trampy friend, Turbonegro come off looking like a cross between a low-rent Village People, the original Alice Cooper band and one of those fashionably co-ordinated gangs from The Warriors.

Naturally, their gleefully decadent fifth studio album Scandinavian Leather — a slightly less-focused sequel to their 1998 masterpiece Apocalypse Dudes — is an equally demented amalgam of styles and influences. There’s the big dumb rawk of The Dictators. The full-throttle pacing and tom-tom pounding of The Ramones. The glammy sleaze and menace of classic Cooper. The soccer-terrace whoa-ho chants of a million punk bands. The rock-god guitar solos of Ace Frehley. And a host of lines, licks and riffs lovingly cribbed from a host of vintage cuts, including The YardbirdsTrain Kept A Rollin’ and Cheap Trick’s Clock Strikes Ten. They call it death-punk, but really there’s not much death to speak of, and punk is hardly the dominant force on most of these 13 cuts. The truth is, Turbonegro are just another in a long line of Scandinavian guitar-abusers with Marshall stacks, Les Pauls, fuzz boxes and damn good record collections.

What sets them apart and puts them over the top are the words of singer Hank Von Helvete. Aggressively homoerotic, unrepentantly nihilistic, button-pushingly provocative and virtually unquotable in a family newspaper, these are lyrics that make The Mentors seem like The Monkees — lyrics that make you stop the CD and skip back to make sure he really said what you thought you heard. Yep, he did. And he meant to do it. On songs like Wipe It ’Til It Bleeds, Sell Your Body (To the Night), Drenched in Blood, and even the winkingly self-glorifying Turbonegro Must be Destroyed, Von Helvete is out to get a reaction, whether it’s shock, anger, confusion or hatred. If teenage boys are too sexually threatened to join their fan club, good. If college kids are too naively idealistic to enjoy the gags, so much the better. And if your parents are just too, well, old to approve of anything they do, that’s the best Turbonegro could hope for. After all, as Helvete proclaims in Locked Down, “When everybody hates you, you’ve got nothing to lose.”

Rock ’n’ roll, however, has everything to gain.