Romero – ‘Turn It On!’ review: a thrilling rock ’n’ roll joyride

The Melbourne band's debut album is a vivacious, shack-shaking garage rock beast

Melbourne power pop quintet Romero are all fiery energy on their debut full-length album ‘Turn It On!’. Adam Johnstone and Fergus Sinclair’s guitars whiplash between jangly and virile, anthemic and understated, providing a dynamic foundation for Alanna Oliver’s punchy vocals.

Romero formed in 2018, Oliver serendipitously meeting brothers Adam and Dave Johnstone through a mutual acquaintance. They recruited Sinclair (Eyesores) and bassist Justin Tawil (Summer Blood) soon afterwards, rounding out a punk supergroup made up of Melbourne underground talents just looking for a vehicle in which to accelerate into the mainstream.

With Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s guitarist and internationally experienced mastering engineer Mikey Young on mixing duties and Soundpark Studios’ Andrew Hehir recording, Romero definitely have the right alchemy of talent supporting their musical vision and skills on ‘Turn It On!’. From the opening track, it’s an athletic, furious ride that barely applies the brakes.

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‘Talk About It’ kicks off with pure garage rock with lacerating, frenzied guitars. Over 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Romero stomp, romp and rock relentlessly. Oliver pleads with growing desperation and desire: “Don’t you wanna talk about it? Don’t cha?” Partnered with Young’s pitch-perfect production, the fuzzy, scuzzy guitars and Oliver’s dramatic vocal stylings are shoved into the spotlight where they belong.

Serving up the sonic equivalent of 20 strong espressos, ‘Talk About It’ is a sweaty, unforgiving entry point. But Romero swerve into a vaguely slower lane for ‘Happy Hour’, though savage guitars sounding like power saws are a reminder that even when this band slow it down, they’re still raucous. They’re on a sonic freeway – scared to slow down, perhaps, when they’ve been building up the momentum for a full-length album since 2018.

It can feel – despite the vivacity and thrilling, shack-shaking garage rock beast that this whole album is – that Romero are stuck in a single gear. There’s a sameness to the songs that won’t trouble any listeners who only want to throw their heads around, pogo bounce and get deafened by riffs.

So when Romero introduce unexpected elements, it’s exciting. There’s a vaguely doo-wop, surfer garage feel to ‘Troublemaker’, the single they debuted late in 2020, winning attention from NME. It’s the highlight of the album, closely followed by the tambourine flourishes and noodling, brassy guitars of the bittersweet ‘White Dress’. When they experiment beyond mind-numbing guitar riffs, or favour melody over ferocity, Romero have a winning formula.

By the time final track ‘Things They Don’t Tell You’ throttles in, it might feel like you’ve been riding shotgun for the last 40 minutes with five caffeine-fuelled punk-rock maniacs, but Oliver’s cooing “Oooh, I’m gonna take you there!” is somehow sexy and soothing at once. The question is, where will they take us next?

Details

Romero album Turn It On
  • Release date: April 8
  • Record label: Cool Death Records / Feel It Records
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