Rock & roll meets The Real World on Turbo Ocho, the fifth studio album by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers. After touring in support of 2007's No More Beautiful World, the band decamped to Mexico in early 2008 to write, arrange, and record eight songs in eight days. The experiment was filmed and broadcast on the Internet in daily installments, allowing die-hard fans the chance to view rehearsals and hear each song immediately after its completion. Turbo Ocho is the result of that reality-recording process -- a surprisingly solid compilation of eight inspired tunes, three bonus cuts, and a DVD that documents the process. Going further, it's an interesting intersection between art and commerce, music and marketing, deliberation and instinct. The Peacemakers don't exactly resurrect the gun-slinging, outlaw-inspired roots rock of Americano -- that era seemed to end with No More Beautiful World, the band's first album to barely reference their southwestern home -- but they spike Turbo Ocho with flashes of mariachi horns, heartland twang, and muscled guitar. Arizona is still the band's muse, even if Clyne no longer evokes the state in his lyrics, and the Peacemakers sound at home on this material.
Turbo Ocho shines its brightest on those songs written during the motivated eight-day stretch, from the heartland rock of "Mercy" to the sparse "Persephone," where Clyne woos a Grecian goddess with his syncopated guitar riff. "State of the Art" flaunts a memorable chorus -- the sort of bouncing, melody-driven thing that inspires drivers to roll down their windows in the summer -- while the pedal steel and elegiac vocals of "Summer 39" are perfect in their imperfection, having been recorded in one take during a practice session. Perhaps the strongest rock song is "I Know You Know," a straightforward tune in the vein of Americano's "I Don't Need Another Thrill," and one of Clyne's best vocal performances in half a decade. It's also worth noting that producer Clif Norrell worked at the same pace as the band, mixing and mastering each song within the specified 24-hour window, and Turbo Ocho's production -- while understandably hurried -- sounds lean and crisp. Videographer Jason Boots also burned the midnight oil, and his daily video clips are an integral part of this album's success, since several songs don't come alive without their visual components. "I Can Drink the Water" is a prime example; sandwiched between "Mercy" and "I Do," it sounds like a holdover from the No More Beautiful World sessions. But after watching the song's creation on video, wherein the bandmates climb into a friend's boat and compose the tune while puttering around the Sea of Cortés, the trumpet riffs and bilingual vocals seem perfectly allowable, if not wholly appropriate. So while Turbo Ocho is strong enough to hold its weight as a normal album, it's meant to be consumed as something else, and the bulk of its 11 tracks aren't definitive performances but rather blueprints for what they can (and will) become in concert. Perfectionists will find a lot of problems here -- there's a flubbed moment in the palm-muted intro to "I Do," for example -- but perfectionists have no business dealing with music this raw. Forget the sub-par moments on No More Beautiful World; forget the three bonus cuts that can't really hold a candle to the heart of Turbo Ocho; this is the sound of heartfelt Americana finding a home in a technology-driven world.