90s Nostalgia: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out Of Our Shells Cassette

A much younger version of myself got the Coming Out Of Our Shells tape as a free Pizza Hut giveaway (I always wanted to be part of Book It, but my school didn't participate) and proceeded to play it far too often even though it was arguably awful. I always used to listen to music and play video games, and I cranked that tape on many days while I played Super Nintendo, going through Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and innumerable game rentals listening to those ten songs over and over again. It was only later when I started listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and a bit later when I discovered Punk and switched over to NOFX, Operation Ivy, and indie stalwarts such as Pavement that the tape fell by the wayside only to be revisited again in a quest for nostalgia twenty years later.

The tape is an unsung pop-cultural artifact that was released at the cusp of 90's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesmania when everything that was even tangentially turtles-related sold like hotcakes. This is the short era where the turtles were so hot that copycats multiplied. Does anyone really remember the Stone Protectors or the Cy-Boars? Maybe the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt  Hamsters or the Battletoads are firmly etched in our memories. It seemed that if one could string some adjectives together they could come up with a product to cash in on the TMNT popularity.

TMNT started as an underground comic, but as soon as the cartoon appeared, it became exponentially popular, spawning a ton of movies and merchandise. The original cartoon series lasted an incredible nine years and there have been a few reboots since. The movie and the watered down Archie comic book series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, are what undeniably pulled me in to the turtle world. I never even read an original Mirage comic until years later. The series changed the turtles to allow easier entry for younger fans. They got color-coordinated headbands and their personalities became increasingly one-dimensional, but I'm sure many of us still have a soft spot for these intrepid teenagers.

Coming Out of Their Shells is utter dreck, but it has an undeniable appeal possibly connected to its status as nostalgic schlock. While I listened to it many times, I'm not sure exactly why. Listening to it now, it wears its age. Full of hair metal power ballads with awful lyrics, the album relies on tired "ready to rock" cliches and songs about pizza. The band wouldn't be out of place on Saved By The Bell or one of its copies when the guys and gals decided to start a band. Parts even sound like Rent.  Raphael is the lead singer for some inexplicable reason but more than one turtle gets to sing lead in front of canned drums, guitars, and eighties production. Even Master Splinter and April O'Neil get a chance. Michaelangelo's first song, "Tubin'" has the required rap section and surf guitars. Splinter's "Skippin' Stones" is an overproduced ballad with keyboards and the sounds of water dripping, but April's song, the inventively titled "April's Ballad" is possibly the worst with its breathy vocals and insipid lyrics: "a turtle's a friend / a friend until the end."

The tape was released as part of a tour. I never saw it, thankfully, but the album certainly gives a definite shape and color to its glories. There is a VHS tape of a pay-per-view broadcast, and video is on youtube, so someday I'll check it out. For now, the memories of the album are fresh in my mind. Perhaps, this sort of stuff is always released when a franchise gets huge, but I think the time period allowed turtlemania to run rampant. This album is surely proof of that. Enjoy at your own peril.

Listen on YouTube: Coming Out Of Their Shells

Read more at Turtlepedia.


Popular posts from this blog

The Drive-By Truckers and their Southern Rock Opera: Part Four (The Excesses of Touring and Lessons Learned)