Torche - Harmonicraft

The underground metal landscape is a rocky and striated one, full of sub-sections and micro-scenes, so it’s hard to make any sweeping generalizations about it. But here’s one: Over the last 20 years or so, underground metal as a whole has become less and less hospitable to any concept of metal, which makes the Miami band Torche a total outlier. Among their scuzz-rocking peers, Torche are the rare band willing to release an EP of Guided By Voices covers, or to claim Superchunk as influences. Their 2008 album Meanderthal is beloved in extreme-metal circles, and it’s a weird one. It’s an experimental album, but the experiments don’t have anything to do with whiplash time-changes or from-the-gut roars. Those things are there, but they’re expected. What sets Meanderthal apart, its true radical qualities, are its big, gummy meat-and-potatoes ’90s indie-heartland melodies and hooks. And for Harmonicraft, their first proper album since, Torche are pounding that idea of melody even harder, doing their best to show us a parallel universe where bands still wrote big, loud, catchy songs that could conceivably pack arenas. It’s the album that Foo Fighters might make if Foo Fighters were still remotely capable of making a great album.

From what I’ve seen thus far, the critical reception for Harmonicraft has been a resounding “meh.” In Pitchfork, my dude Grayson Currin — a writer whose taste in metal usually dovetails nicely with my own — writes that “it’s surprising to hear just how codified and predictable Torche sound at this point.” And it’s true that the band’s sound doesn’t lurch wildly in every direction the way it once did. To me, though, that’s a strength, and Harmonicraft strikes me as every bit the equal of Meanderthal. Torche aren’t going nuts with the musical ideas anymore because they’ve hit on one that works. They’ve married their unstoppable riffage, which somehow sounds both thunderously elephantine and liquidly serpentine, to titanic yelling-at-the-cheap-seats choruses, and that specific combination punches me in the heart every time.

Even an instrumental song, like the title track here, pushes itself with a furious melodic drive that no other band in metal is attempting right now. And even though the album sticks with a single sound throughout, it’s not like it gets boring; that sound leaves plenty of room to roam. Seven-minute closer “Looking On,” works as stretched-out stoner-rock, leaving tons of space in between its booms and moving through multiple movements but making sure it all builds to a roaring, cathartic climax. “Walk It Off” is a 96-second rager that never lets up but still has some Cheap Trick in its DNA. “In Pieces,” another instrumental, is ZZ Top by way of Corrosion Of Conformity. “Snakes Are Charmed” reaches skyward like Hüsker Dü but still sneaks in some Angus Young-style one-hand soloing. And then there’s “Kicking,” the album’s furious bulldozer of a leadoff track. Every second of “Kicking” is glorious, and its virtues are the album’s virtues in miniature. Its riffs and hooks are both huge, and they both push each other toward some perfect imaginary place where you’re wheeling down a deserted highway on an 80-degree day, going 95 with your head sticking out the sunroof. It’s great. This album is great.

Harmonicraft is out today on Volcom. Stream it at Spin.

Other notable albums out this week:
• Jack White’s long awaited, thoroughly pro solo debut Blunderbuss.
• Death Grips’ punk-rap cacophony The Money Store.
• The Flaming Lips’ collaborative freakout-party The Flaming Lips And Heavy Fwends.
• Suckers’ psych-pop sophomore effort Candy Salad.
• Ty Segall and White Fence’s collaborative fuzz-garage LP Hair.
• The Dandy Warhols’ reliably psychedelic This Machine.
• Actress’s post-techno burble R.I.P.
• James Blackshaw’s steel-string ramble Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death.

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Comments (103)
  1. Good review, but easy on the Foo hate? Pretty sure they “still write big, loud, catchy songs that could conceivably pack arenas.”

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      • I’m not sure how Raptor’s post would have watered-down your recap at all, if anything it made your writing style look more polished in comparison.

        I might be in the minority here, but I could care less about the quality of writing when it comes to a festival recap. I don’t need Pitchforkian syntax to help me understand that the weekend was great, just use interesting descriptors and help me understand what it felt like to be there. That’s all.

      • first of all: either this is an elaborate (unfunny) joke or you are an awful, spoiled brat. be thankful for the opportunity, jackass!

      • second of all: “but you’re writing style just isn’t up to par to be featured here”

        YOU’RE writing style suxxxxx, dawg

      • Wow.

        How did you have trouble getting a pen in a festival when I got 10 blunts in?

        I mean sure, that statement proves your point, but it seems you already did all the research to find out that, “Yes! I had a good time!”

        But here’s what I don’t get:

        The Michael_ feature has 52 comments and was on the front page for most of last week. Hell, when my fluff piece was posted that post was #5 in Top Comments from last week STILL.

        My piece has 9 comments, 3 of which are yours, and has since VANISHED from the site.

        So yours was better, got a better response.

        Mine was mediocre, got a mediocre response.

        Isn’t imitation the greatest form of flattery? Guess not.

        • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • Please stop acting like a child.

          • I wonder if this negative energy is the result of two badass groups battling for album of the week.

            It’s too bad we’re stuck in cyberspace and can’t all have a group hug with M_ and RJ in the middle. But honestly, you guys both made me care about a festival I didn’t go to, and you’re both good writers. And Michael, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! This weekend get some rest at a nearby beach, it’ll make you feel better. The only thing there’s no point to is going all duchessofthomyorke on our asses.

        • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • I’d say it a toss-up for album of the week. Both have their strong points.Neither however holds a candle to your meltdown in terms of sheer entertainment. Kudos!

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      • Where’s The Beef?

      • I hear they’re giving Rubber Johnny a guest piece about shows on Fiona Apple’s new tour.

      • I’d like to note a specific section of the rant:
        “…you’re writing style just isn’t up to par…” (Line 5).

    • I don’t know why you’re taking bottoms, jesus. I thought both pieces were okay for what they were. I didn’t really come away a) comparing the two, or b) thinking that one was superior to the other. The only thing that diminishes your piece, M_, is that you are a complete asshole (as opposed to “kind of” being an asshole like you were before). The sad thing is that you could have probably played the whole thing off as a joke if you hadn’t been completely reactionary.

      Don’t minimize your shit. You came out guns ablaze at jesus. All he did was post his experience of the show in response to a request. Then you come in shitting on people’s choice of an AOTW. Stick to your own fucking blog, then. Or come with some objective backup for your thoughts instead of acting like a fucking girl about the whole situation. You are real quick to criticize on this site, and most people just deal with it like champs. Who gives a fuck about your hours at work, blogging, or the gym? Not one motherfucker over here. Going to the gym and blogging are not work, shitstain. That’s your choice. Get another job. Do something aside from belly-aching about having to share a meaningless fucking stage.

      Your piece was not worthy of a Pulitzer, so busting on jesus for bringing something is not only immature, it’s unprofessional. That, bitch, exposes you for what you are: a hack.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • That would be amazing. You tend to come off like a douche in the most innocuous postings, but now? I mean, wow.

        • Don’t go! The comment section is why I keep coming back to S’gum. You’re one of the best!

        • Seriously don’t go. Your transparent opinions and emotions spice up this site too much. I think your #heelturn coming out as the duchess of york back in the day is one of the reasons I got addicted to this site to the point where i sometimes have it open on two tabs and am considering rehab.

          Also I think ^ might be rubberjohnny’s doppelganger.

        • Whoa, Michael_, what the hell man? Ive always been a fan of your posts/blog, which is why this is really disappointing to see. I seriously lost a lot of respect for you.

          • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -7

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      • Well to clarify, nobody asked me to write the piece.

        It came to my attention that Stereogum wasn’t sending anybody to cover Coachella. When I saw Michael_’s write-up, I thought that was an intelligent way to get around that problem by having a willing commenter write a day-diary.

        I shot an e-mail to Stereogum instantly after reading it, asking if they wanted ole RJ to share my experiences on the following weekend. I honestly thought they wouldn’t respond or just say, “No Thanks,” but to my surprise they said, “Let’s Do It!”

        Want to know my first reaction after getting the go ahead? “Will this piss off Michael_?” Because at face, it is kind of like I’m stealing his thunder. So I began to find ways that I could make my piece different from Michael_’s, focusing on bands he didn’t cover, not talk about “bros,” actually stay and watch Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, etc. So that’s what I did.

        I didn’t so much mind Michael_’s initial replies. I was a little saddened that my instinctual worry about his reaction proved to be true. But then this, where he rips apart my line that I used to describe what I considered to be the festival highlight: Jeff Mangum’s performance. That hurt.

        Thank you eldave on the encouraging words. It definitely looks like I took the bottom, but I really just wanted to clarify why Michael_ has nothing to be worried about. He obviously spent much more time on his piece (my guess is he didn’t have to type his on his phone, I don’t have a laptop) and he got more exposure on the site because of it. Seeing as how that was likely one of his goals in working so hard on the piece, I felt I needed to remind him of his achievement.

        The only reason I feel bottomed is A) Michael_’s reaction and then B) the fact that my piece did get swept under the rug due to an exciting Monday of new releases and album birthdays.

        But that doesn’t bug me. You know why? My goal was to make one commenter on Stereogum laugh or realize something they wouldn’t have known otherwise. So I accomplished my goal.

        Sorry to de-rail this thread further, but I really wanted to type up a statement since I didn’t realize my write-up would cause stress waves. For the record I think my report is awesome, because I had an awesome time and I wanted my writing to reflect that awesomeness. I honestly cried at Jeff Mangum, like those nasty, ugly tears where your face contorts.

        True Story.

        • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • Dude, don’t stop writing! Nobody is mad about your writing! You’re not a bad writer! People are mad about the fact that you, rather than graciously accepting an opportunity that was handed to you, acted like a child about it when the same opportunity was handed to someone else. Be happy that Stereogum big upped you like that, and be happy that RJ was also big upped! That’s all!

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          • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -2
          • Another metaphor that might work is taking a girl out for lunch and showing up with an engagement ring in your pocket, only to find out that she invited another guy to tag along. Turns out she’s not interested in either of you sexually, and she doesn’t get why you’re freaking out in the middle of the restaurant all of a sudden.

          • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -18

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          • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -14

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          • This is like Wavves at Primavera, except on a much smaller stage to less people and drained of all significance.

        • Sorry if I’m coming off as a patronizing chump, but you da MAN R Jeezy! Your write-up was awesome, and this is one of the best threads I’ve ever seen on this site. You aint derailin shit.

          But you gotta clarify one more thing. Did they really say “Let’s do it!” verbatim? Cus (especially if Tom responded) I was imagining the response being a more “O LEYYYYY DOOOO ITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!”

          • After a Double Take & Deconstruction, the e-mail quote was actually: “Let’s do it.” sans exclamation (“!”) mark.

            Can’t wait to hear this new Torche record! (exclamation mark intended)

          • Hahaha, thanks for clearing that up dog. Yeah this Torche album seems sick based on these two tracks and I am intrigued by Death Grips!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I got the money store last week and thought, “this better be the album of the week.” Especially with all of the rap that Stereogum has been highlighting recently I thought it stood a pretty good chance, how disappointing.

    • Death Grips stands out in the pack for the same reasons the kid in the class that eats glue does.

      • Wesley, that is the best metaphor that I have ever read. And I have read me some metaphors. I’m fairly certain that the glue-eaters started a band; and that band is called Death Grips.

        On the flip, I’ll have to agree with some of the sentiments of previous posters. If The Money Store isn’t a better album than Harmonicraft, then it definitely a) is more “interesting” and b) has a better title.

    • So much hatred for a true statement

  3. Anyway, this fucking album is pretty amazing. My mind is racing with the possibility of a GBV/Torche tour next year or something

  4. In the ensuing Tom v Grayson Currin fist fight (https://twitter.com/#!/currincy/status/194812167948734465) I’m with Tom on this one. Loving this album, Meanderthal will not be beaten though.

  5. This only got a 6.5 on Pitchfork though, how could it be album of the week? You guys ought to be banished to the dark lands the sun doesn’t reach for disagreeing with the Fork.

  6. The Ty Segall and White Fence album is sick if you’re in a face-melting garage rock mood.

  7. Disregarding the argument above, I agree that Death Grips definitely had the album of the week this time around.

  8. Haven’t heard this or the death grips album yet, but ‘kicking’ definitely makes me want to hear the rest of this one.

  9. This is definitely a grower of an album. To be honest, I (who knows little about metal) feel the album is not original enough to truly astound me, and has nothing truly original enough that I could differentiate it from other albums made in 1995. Sure I can here the CoC influences (it does remind me of Wise Blood), but feel that the mastering of the album takes away from any of truly genius moments, having drowned out all of the instruments, or maybe Spotify’s just low quality….. Either way, based on my first listen, I just do not feel like this bring enough to the table to truly differentiate it from so many other metal albums out there.

  10. I stopped reading at the Foo Fighters jab. I’m sure you though that was clever. It wasn’t. In fact, it was pointless and unnecessary. There’s a thousand other ways you could have used the Foo Fighters a comparison without dismissing them in such a base manner. In case you missed it, their last album was, ya know, popular. And loved. And well reviewed. And constantly compared to old Foo Fighters. So like, whatever.

    • Yeah, god forbid he should express a differing opinion. I thought Wasting Light was just as boring as everything else the Foos have done in the last decade. It was popular, “loved” (certainly not by me) and well-reviewed, so everyone has to like it, right? Screw that.

      • I’m glad he has opinions. I’m glad you have opinions. I respect that both of you have the right to express those opinions.

        I don’t think either of your opinions about the Foo FIghters have fuck all to do with this band, their new album, or writing a proper review of it.

        It was unnecessary and it was bad journalism.

    • Also, not to pile on, but I don’t think that it is a “jab” to point out that the Foo Fighters aren’t making great albums. An album can have broad appeal and be well-loved without being great (Justin Beiber, Michael Buble, One Direction). The point that I find reconciles this jab is that the author is implying that the Foo have made great albums at some point in their history as a band. Not sure I’m inclined to agree with that. It was kind of a neutral statement, at best.

      However, like most “metal” bands, the vocals on this album are pretty terrible, and not in an interesting way. Grohl is a helluva lot better vocalist. Torche’s instrumentals are great. I take exception to the line from the review, “Even an instrumental song,”. Personally, I wish that there were a few more instrumental songs here, because the riffage is very palatable.

  11. Wow, you know your blog has arrived when you get this kind of diva-esque drama going on, this is way better than any of those cat fight reality show recaps that float around.

    • Superwow. Awkward sound, indeed

      • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -7

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        • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -13

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        • Yes, Michael. I would like to add that I was harsh in criticizing you above. I don’t take anything that I said lightly, and I still agree with it. However, you have also clearly earned a lot of respect from posters and readers here. I very much respect the passionate approach you have to what you do. We can all have a good time with an easy target, but we all make ourselves that target from time to time. I take myself too seriously on a daily basis, and we can all sympathize with being the ass of the joke once that line is crossed. One freakout does not negate a lot of well-thought out commentary. It’s nice to have people who care about things beyond trying to post a witty one-liner or two. All-in-all, you are definitely an asshole, but you have earned that right by most people’s standards.

  12. Nah, man, I’m good. You must be tired of this anyways, no? On the brightside: a couple hours ago I didn’t know about your blog. Now I do, and I’m going to check it out. You should not bail on it because of this whole freak-out. Probably, you should pipe down about it from here on out! It’s been kinda hilarious but, enough! Keep yr chin up

  13. Wow – I am so sorry I missed this.

    Is this a bad time to announce Stereogum has asked me to cover NXNE in july?

    (ha ha kidding, but I just got a showcase which means I have a wristband which means I can totally do it ha ha so crazy #humblebrag)

    • Was I the only one that read that as an INXS hologram concert?

      • Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 25th, 2012 -19

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    • I’m waaaaaaaay late, I did see those comments on the RJ post and thought it was a little weird that it disappeared from the front page so quickly.

      Not sure if I’m sorry I missed this tho, it was pretty perfect without me.

  14. WHOA! These comments are truly ridiculous. Dudes acting like its a big deal to get to write a recap on Stereogum. “Stealing my thunder…. I was asked to headline” This is embarrassing.

  15. Either this is a clever plot in order to gain some blog traffic, or it’s the sad ramblings of an ungrateful, jealous prone douchebag.

  16. Is this a AOTW thread or a Michael_ thread? No offense to you Michael_, even though this whole thing makes you look like a crybaby .

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  18. Wait this whole fight is a joke, right? My mind is being blown by the possibility of true irony.

    If not, Scott, I hope you are ordering an amazing meta take on “Where’s the Beef” right this second…

  19. I think Michael_ is just trying to run the worst comments board!

  20. Holy. Freaking. CHRIST… this entire comment section is just embarrassing. Yikes.

  21. I feel really fucking sad I missed this entire thing. And it’s not like I was doing something better, or working out for ten hours (check my facebook for the evidence). Michael_, if I may be serious for a second (I don’t even know if you’ll read this), you don’t do yourself any favors in the whole blogo-tainment industry by angrily dismissing other writers. Yeah, Raptorjesus didn’t write a dissertation; there’s room for different styles of writing and reporting and it shows a serious lack of respect when you piss all over everyone. I’m a music writer myself, and though I haven’t contributed anything of merit to the blogo-sphere for a while, I try to maintain a standard of professionalism and respect even at my stupidest moments. The best writers are secure in the knowledge that what they write is individual and has an audience. There’s no need to angrily put others down to feel happy with your own pieces.

    • Oh, and don’t stop posting just because you left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I think as long as you keep the rants to strictly musical, people will listen. I’d rather get into arguments over the merits of the music than the merits of the individual writers. I mean, let’s face it, being a critic in the first place rubs some people the wrong way.

  22. Fuck! again i thought this was going to be an extensive commentary on the album. stop thinking you are so important!

  23. someone please ban this michael piece of shit from being such a boring fuck

  24. Hi everyone, I’m Karen and I love to find the best music, covers, and videos out there to share with the world! I’m just starting out on twitter so follow me at https://twitter.com/#!/KarenGreenberg4

  25. This is a little late, but is Stereogum not doing a Haunting the Chapel feature anymore?

    • No, that feature was Brandon Stosuy’s baby and he left to become a big fancy editor at Pitchfork. He wrote for PFork for a long time before working here and they’ve recently taken on a better focus of metal, with writers like with Grayson Currin and Brandon. Brandon keeps up a feature called Show No Mercy on Pitchfork, which is similar to HTC. That being said, I’d love to see something on Stereogum take the place of Haunting the Chapel.

  26. So glad for Comments Of The Week or I never would have read this. Still laughing!

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