I’m kinda tired of making lists. I don’t have it in me to try another THIS IS THE ZEITGEIST summary essay, and I don’t think anyone wants to read one either: there’ll be enough moment-capturing ink to swim in come December, and only guys like me are gonna read it anyway. Instead of a list I’m just gonna spend the next month or so doing quick posts about records I’ve heard this year that have meant something to me. There’ll be some predictable stuff, hopefully some surprises, and I’ll share a song or two from each record. If I get lucky I might do some good writing too.
I’m starting with Torche’s Meanderthal.
Early in 2007 I bought tickets for a show at Emo’s. Isis was headlining, but I’d paid my money to see openers Jesu. When British frontman Justin Broadrick got hung up at the border on work visa problems and some band I’d never heard of got their spot on the tour I considered putting my ticket up on Craigslist. Eventually I decided it’d be a waste of money not to go, so I showed up hoping Isis would wow me and that the no-name openers wouldn’t bore me too much.
Torche was that opening band, and they blew Isis off the stage. Their energy, soaring melodies, and bone-rattling riffs made me an instant convert, but when I put the debut in the CD player I found myself disappointed. On their first record they kept the molten guitars but skimped on the hooks, and without the hooks they were just another in the line of boring sludge metal bands.
Meanderthal is the breakthrough. By turns evoking Black Sabbath, Foo Fighters, Blink 182, and Sunn o))), they sound excited about the music they’re making. Opener “Triumph of Venus” is one of a handful of punchy, hummable instrumentals that make the word “prog” pogo on your tongue before disappearing. Followup “Grenades” gives you the band in a nutshell, and capper “Fat Waves” is an honest-to-god pop song
What I really love about this band is that they take a doomy sound, something designed to soundtrack alienation and despair, and repurporse it to create some of the most uplifting sounds I’ve heard in ages. Brooklyn Vegan calls Meanderthal “a 10,000 lb. cupcake.” I just call it one of my favorite albums of the year.