Monday, February 9, 2015

Torche- Restarter!

Here's the pitch, and I'll make it just this once- you need Torche because this is rock, as it stands, in 2015. Sure, sure, sure, they get sold as sludge, stoner and doom. Yes, they are on Relapse, and Relapse used to be an extreme metal label. Please forget all those niches, and genres, and classifications. Things have changed, and we must change. Adapt and survive- it's the one dictum of Nature that we must heed.
See, last night was the Grammys. Ye gads- Sam Smith won a bunch of awards based upon a song he was sued for plagiarizing. Beck won for an album that could only be called "rock" by people who think that Lady Gaga should sing standards with Tony Bennett. ( For once, I was with Kanye- if you're going to give it to Beck instead of Beyonce, somebody needs to drunkenly interrupt) And Tenacious D won for metal, for doing an acoustic cover of a twenty year old Dio track. Rock isn't dead, folks- music is. Kids today... They'll wear a Pokemon T shirt before they'll wear even a Foo Fighters T shirt. They'll download Mp3's from the Pirate Bay of comedians doing a Rap parody of some news event a thousand times over more likely than they'll so much as listen to a single, complete verse of an actually composed song.   So, screw Punk, Metal, Reggae, Disco, Country, or whatever genre- this is the dark age of mass culture, and those of us who believe in something more edifying than Vine clips must change our game- no more can we afford to be tribal, or un-evolved.
Torche understand. They are marketing this record with goofy sunglasses, Video games, and glow in the dark Hoodies. Steve Brooks possesses a voice that's up there with Ozzy, and David Lee Roth for classic "rock" chops, but he buries it, much like Buzz Osborne(!), and he leads a group of pure lifers in the "rock" game, here. Don't believe me? OK, Steve was in Floor in 1992. That's 23 years ago. If that's not a lifetime commitment, you live in a different job market than the rest of the world. Jonathan Nunez and Rick Smith have been at this since the mid 1990's as well, albeit from a more traditionally "punk" angle - please see Post Teens and Shitstorm- and if you don't know Andrew Elstner- please see Riddle of Steel and Tilts, and get back to me once you're a music fan. What I'm saying is that if anyone deserves to carry the flag for Rock music, these guys have earned it.
So, I'm going to assume that you're caught up. You have copies of Torche, Meanderthal, Harmonicraft, In Return, and Songs for Singles. If not, there's your next paycheck, buddy.
So, you know what these guys do- they combine pop songcraft- hooks, tight structure, and efficient delivery with the heavy, loud, extreme elements of underground punk, noise, and metal. Like Boris, (the)Melvins, and Converge forced into an AC/DC song format. The only way to convey it to the uneducated masses is in terms of "classic" rock- "It's like Black Sabbath meets Van Halen, but way heavier" "It's like Led Zeppelin, but modern".... In our balkanized rock scene, that's why they stand out as genre-defying- "Sludge Stoner Doom Pop"- people cannot wrap their heads around the notion that good, solid music can be extreme as well as mainstream- at the same time!!!
I've already seen how this is playing out- the purists are turned off, while the poseurs are turned out.
Decibel mag is confounded, and thinks it's a step back, while Outburn is just utterly impressed by its existence. Let me give you a set of keys, and maybe you can make the ride. See, the thing is is this- Rocknroll,  or, if you prefer, rock music, is a bastardized hybrid. From the outset, it gains vitality from being impure, from mutation- from doing it "wrong". Without that hybrid vigor, it becomes rote and stale, quickly, and then dies. People who assign a role for a band to play are sentencing their pleasure in that band to death. Likewise, internally, bands are comprised of people- and people only advance through dialogue and change- So, no, this isn't Torche going anywhere- this is what happens when Steve incorporates what he's learned from Floor reviving, and Andrew getting his Tilts thing out, and Jonathan producing a bunch of bands, and Rick doing likewise. Expecting Torche to get more "party rock" would be awkward and strange. Expecting them to become Mastodon would be equally foolish, as these are different people, with different experiences and different tastes.
So, if you're up to speed, listen to this.
Track one sets the tone: Annihilation Affair. I don't really tune into the lyrics with Torche- it's mostly word salad to me, But this turn of phrase is apt- Low End 3/4 swing with all lower mids emphasized- it sounds like a wrecking ball getting funky wit' it. The emphasis on the lower mids means that the noise solo that closes the track out doesn't come out with any sharp edges, it's more steamwhistle whine and the squeak of rubber soles than knives and ice, you get it?
Track two "Bishop In Arms" has discovered something I thought only I knew- hardcore thrash is very lulling. I seriously can use old Discharge 7" records to go to sleep. All those downstrokes become a blur, then a drone. Leave it to Torche to find the meditative drone in 100 bpm.
Track Three 'Minions' sounds like a new wave song in slo-mo. You can deny it, if you want, but I dig the thought of Benjamin Orr and Gary Numan on 'Ludes.  Kylesa do this same thing- cop a New Wave melody, and amp the living hell out of it, until it becomes psychotronic.
Then, Track Three "Loose Men".... You're going to hear about this one. It's the most obvious throwback to Harmonicraft, and the Healer Ep- it's basically an Alt-rock track in the vein of Husker Du and ( believe it or not) Big Country. It's nice, but self limiting.
I prefer track five "Undone"- it's a bomb stringed Melvins grinder, with hooks and a serious attitude. It sounds like both the heaviest and most rawk track you'll hear all day.
So, Track six,'Blasted" seems almost quaint- all simple harmonies, and recycling riffs, in an almost pop punk way, until the solo at the end saves it by becoming some towering Phoenix whine, going into track seven "No Servants", all controlled feedback and broken drums until it releases into a monster riff that Blue record Baroness would've given their beards to have. This is what I want from Torche- pushing the boundaries of both what is "heavy" and what is 'melody".
So, track eight, comes on like a seasick Boris track, before that chorus , my god that chorus- 'Believe it"- we're talking a redefinition of Sludge Metal, here. drones, crushing heaviness, gobs, upon gobs of thick, buzzing guitars, but with hypnotic melodies spiraling off like fractals in a mandelbrot set....
So, if I tell you that track nine "Barrier Hammer' is heavy, you still won't expect it. We're talking heavier than Godflesh sitting in with Buzzov*en to play songs Black Sabbath thought were too loud, and that's before the bomb string derails everything- this sounds like a carpet bombing using small planets as payload. Show me something heavier, I dare you.
So, we end with the title track. Sheer bloody magic. A heavy melodic drone, deceptively easy on an Alice Cooper does New Wave beat, that carries you off. Eight Minutes? Not enough. I want this to be like a Can track- twenty minutes, just getting shamanistic with it. Such beauty, such unknown treasures shouldn't ever end. It makes Queens of the Stone Age seem like weak tea, masquerading as witches' brew. We're talking the real cosmic porridge, here. Put these guys in a room with Psychick TV. Someone won't walk out, but we'll be better people for it.
What am I saying? I'm saying this is a great record, and absolutely crucial to hear if you care about what's next for heavy rock.

1 comment: