Review: “Turn to Gold” by Diarrhea Planet

Review: “Turn to Gold” by Diarrhea Planet
Courtesy Photo Turn to Gold by Diarrhea Planet released June 10 on Infinity Cat Records.

Courtesy Photo
Turn to Gold by Diarrhea Planet released June 10 on Infinity Cat Records.


Diarrhea Planet is currently my favorite live act.

Two years ago, I was so blown away by their set at Little Rock’s Riverfest that I made a B-line to their merch table right after the show and bought a t-shirt. I knew at the time that I’d probably never wear it—who wants to face the inevitable barrage of questions that comes with sporting a shirt that says Diarrhea Planet? However, after that performance, the band deserved my $20. I’ve seen them twice since then—at Memphis in May in 2015, and at JR’s last August, and they only upped the ante at those shows.

Four guitars. Playful stage dances and high fives. Pop-punk hooks and sweat-soaked singalongs about feeling comfortable in your own skin. Climbing on scaffolds and amps. Crowd surfing. Superhuman energy. Did I mention they have four guitars? Simply put, they are what rock ‘n roll should be.

I badly want Diarrhea Planet to break it big. I want people to stop dissecting their name and start discussing their music. I hoped Turn to Gold would be the record that propelled them to prominence, but unfortunately, I don’t think it will be. Don’t get me wrong, it has some big moments. It has the hooks, angst, energy, and guitars that have come to define this band. The album’s top track, “Bob Dylan’s Grandma,” is a raucous, playful, NOFX-esque tune about a kid who just wants to play rock ‘n roll; initially, the kid dreams about racing cars and flying F-16s, but ultimately he “settles” on trying to play a Stratocaster ‘till his fingers bleed and his “arthritic hands can’t paint the Exit/In” (the legendary venue in Diarrhea Planet’s hometown of Nashville). I bet the song is biographical, but regardless, it’s just plain fun.

As a whole, however, Turn to Goldsounds a bit flat. It’s the band’s most polished record to date, and I suspect that’s part of the problem. It also feels bloated, never a good thing for an 11-song collection. It needs a change of pace—not like the one at the end of “Hot Topic,” where the full-throttle guitars shift from Van Halen-y shimmer to Metallica-ish metal—but a slowly-building ballad like “Kids” (from their previous record). “Lie Down,” which comes too late in the mix to allow the listener to catch her breath, lacks legs.

Unfortunately, Turn to Gold fails to capture the magic of Diarrhea Planet’s shows. My gut tells me this band may never make a record that does—which is more a testament to what they do on the stage than an indictment of their skill in the studio. Disappointment aside, I can’t wait to hear these songs live.



I wholeheartedly agree. I will climb to a mountaintop to sing praises of the righteousness that is a live set from Diarrhea Planet. I saw them at SXSW this year, and it was one of the highlights of my year thus far when my buddies lifted me up so I could crowd surf to the fun-as-all-hell jams going on. A complete blast, man.

But now we’ve both used their live set as a crutch to explain Turn to Gold. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed the new record. They’re not as aggressive overall, but the guitar wizardry is still there. It’s more like good-feeling “Rock,” with a capital “R.” As a prime example to what I mean, the boisterous “Ain’t A Sin To Win” — which is just about riding sweet motorcycles — starts with the sound of an actual motorcycle engine starting up.

Granted, this is a band called Diarrhea Planet, who has songs called “Ghost With A Boner” and “Raft Nasty.” I can tell from this album that the band wants to grow up a little with their sound. It sounds to me like this could be a transition album into their next one that could be especially grounded, mature and effective. We’ll see.

Bangers like “Life Pass,” “Bob Dylan’s Grandma” and “Hot Topic” (I found the heavy shift to be ultra rad, actually) are the best tracks on the album. The rest… well, they’re kinda forgettable. However, many of these songs have buried within them amazing instrumental sections. That’s a given when you have four guitar players in a band.

The singing is more in the power-pop realm here, and that’s something I didn’t like. The vocal mix is buried throughout, and that’s probably the weakest aspect of the album. The band has three distinct singer/songwriters, but I still prefer Jordan Smith in his “Lite Dream” mode, not in the exaggerated rock star voice or punk-pop singing he does throughout Turn to Gold.

All that being said, I’m still a big fan of these duders. In fact, I think this album demonstrates a richness to their sound and certainly will provide a new depth to their live sets. There are enough substantial, beautiful sounding moments on this album to give it something worth diving into.


Categories: Music