Of all the bands to emerge amid the hardcore resurgence of the late 2010s, few have managed to break out so thoroughly as Turnstile. As likely to pop up in GQ as in Hammer, Turnstile's brand of hardcore punk strikes the perfect balance between chunky riffs and anthemic choruses, throwing an extra helping of 90s alt-rock into the mix just to spice things up.
Second only to Code Orange for the impact they have had on the current wave of hardcore acts, Turnstile offer a timely reminder that just because a band crafts excellent pop choruses doesn't mean they have to lose all sense of bite. Across five EPs and three full-length albums, Turnstile have established a fervent cult following that sees them play incendiary sets where bodies fly on and off the stage in staggering numbers.
We dove into Turnstile's back catalogue to pick out ten songs that best illustrate why they are one of hardcore's most beloved new acts.
10. The Things You Do (Pressure To Succeed, 2011)
Turnstile's sound wasn't exactly fully formed when the band released their first EP back in 2011, but Pressure To Succeed definitely showed the band's promise and even managed to chuck some transgressive elements in for good measure. Opener Death Grip has the kind of metallic guitars you'd expect of thrash or even death metal, some serious heft being brought to bear that the band have seldom explored since, but also unfortunately slipped into the casual lyrical misogyny that has afflicted hardcore throughout its history, showing just how much the band still needed to mature.
Further in on the EP, The Things You Do is probably about as straight-up a hardcore track as Turnstile have ever put their hand to, a little over one-minute of chest-beating angst that still occasionally pops up in sets today.
9. 7/Keep It Moving (Step 2 Rhythm, 2013)
By the time Turnstile came round to their second EP Step To Rhythm their own take on hardcore was truly starting to take shape, which may explain why 7/Keep It Moving are the song(s) that Turnstile have apparently played more than any other. A two-parter split into the instrumental intro 7 and main song Keep It Moving, these songs kicked off Step 2 Rhythm by showing how the band were asserting their own identity in hardcore.
Even back then, the band had a pretty firm grasp on the hardcore/alt mix they wanted to pursue, Soundgarden-like neo-psychedelic guitars giving way to a riff that would do Helmet proud on 7 before breaking out in Keep It Moving that sounds equal parts Cro-Mags and Hatebreed. How's that for setting out a mission statement?
8. Alien Love Call [ft. Blood Orange] (Glow On, 2021)
For all of Turnstile's experimental tendencies, there was a generally accepted sense that even the most transgressive song would have a thumping punk heart at its core. That all changed in 2021 however, the Turnstile Love Connection EP track No Surprise going in a completely different direction, a melodic 45-second skit that passed without a riff in sight, suggesting the band were branching out into more sedate territories going forward.
This proved to be entirely correct when Alien Love Call arrived, the first single from the band's third album taking a swim in dreampop and shoegaze territories, even bringing in singer Blood Orange for an extra melodic flavour. While Glow On didn't totally ditch the punk bangers, it did open up whole new realms of experimental possibility for the band and Alien Love Call was a critical song in that evolution.
7. Real Thing (Time & Space, 2018)
We've touched on the songs where Turnstile up-ended the formula of hardcore, but what about their core sound itself? Truthfully, the band's discography is littered with excellent stompy hardcore tracks that give a perfect impression of what they do so well, and we were half-tempted to stump for the excellent Gravity, which kicked off the band's debut full-length Nonstop Feeling.
But ultimately, the opener to Turnstile's second record Time & Space is a streamlined showing of the aerobic exercise you can expect of the band's output (both live and in the studio), its thumping beat serving as a trampoline for vocalist Brendan Yates to bounce off the walls, floors and ceilings to his heart's content. If you're just looking for some top-notch hardcore, this is the place to go.
6. Out Of Rage (Nonstop Feeling, 2015)
As utterly joyous as it is ripping into some hardcore bangers, sometimes you just want to feel that sense of encroaching anticipation that will make the eventual breakout all the more satisfying.
Bassist Franz Lyons is a menace right from the off on Out Of Rage, the song's slow, stalking rhythm sitting somewhere between a more urgent Waiting Room by Fugazi and the kind of slow-burn 90s alt metal rager you might hear Tool or Rage Against The Machine pull out. The latter is particularly relevant to Out Of Rage's explosive climax, the final minute of bedlam coming right from the pages of Know Your Enemy or Bullet In The Head.
5. Mystery (Glow On, 2021)
Turnstile really have a thing for killer album openers. Glow On's opening track Mystery doesn't completely up-end the core Turnstile riffing, but its shimmering electro tones definitely signaled that the album was pulling in different sonic directions. Even the core riff has some slight variation on it - its not a chunky slap like you might have heard on Time & Space - with shades of Smashing Pumpkins creeping into the guitar tone.
4. I Don't Wanna Be Blind (Time & Space, 2018)
With Time & Space, Turnstile really nailed the ideal balance between their different elements, I Don't Wanna Be Blind being a prime example of a song which boasts hardcore heft, alt-rock subversiveness and pop melody. The song's core bassline is a perfect demonstration of just how strong Franz's playing is, the whole song essentially following marching to its steady rise and fall in one of Turnstile's most implacable anthems.
Thirty years ago this is exactly the kind of song that could have ruled the radio. Speaking of total radio anthems, however...
3. Blue By You (Nonstop Feeling, 2015)
If someone asked us tomorrow what the best pop-punk songs of the last decade were, Blue By You would be right towards the top of the list. Never mind that Turnstile aren't a pop-punk band, Blue By You is absolute pure pop perfection, taking an infectious vocal melody and shoving it front and centre behind some frenetic punk rock energy. The song is like the hybrid son of Basket Case-era Green Day and Nevermind-era Nirvana, deceptively simple on the ears but also pure songwriting genius.
2. Holiday (Turnstile Love Connection/Glow On, 2021)
It seems a bit cheeky (but also very knowing) that the opening bass notes to Turnstile's Holiday bear more than a passing resemblance to Dead Kennedys' Holiday In Cambodia. It doesn't take long for the song to take a full swerve into proper Turnstile territory however, the song's core stomp taking over to give us one of the band's biggest singalongs to date.
Holiday is Turnstile refining their best elements to perfection, which goes some way to explain why the song has wracked up over seven million plays on Spotify alone. Plus though we're not entirely sure what the weird percussion is on the song (a table being slapped? A keg being hit? Your guess is good as ours) it's basically perfect for getting the whole crowd clapping along live.
1. Moon (Time & Space)
As it turns out, Franz isn't just an incredibly talented bassist; the man also has some incredible pipes. Lead vocalist on Moon, Franz's melodic sensibilities turn the song into quite possibly the most infectious earworm in Turnstile's entire catalogue, a song you can't help but sing along to once you've heard it because its just that damn good.
Additional vocals from Sheer Mag's Tina Halladay add some wonderful harmonies on top, but perhaps most important is the fact that Turnstile don't hold back anything musically on the song, making these melodies stand out even more against the punk rock fury. Producer Will Yip lent a golden touch to Time & Space, and Moon is the crown jewel that shows that Turnstile are the kind of band who can write anthems that could slay stadiums, let alone clubs.
Turnstile's UK tour starts in Nottingham on January 29. For a full list of tour dates, visit the Turnstile website (opens in new tab). The band also headline the Outbreak and 2000 Trees festivals this summer.