Is Survived By
23 September 2013
by Alex Andrews
It’s been over two years since Touché Amoré released Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me; two years is a long time for a band that spends most of their life in the back of a van, sustaining themselves with part-time jobs and sporadically-released seven-inches. In that time, we’ve seen some of Touché Amoré’s brother and sister bands explore headier, more melodic directions (Title Fight), continue in much of the same fashion (Defeater), or gone on hiatus (Tigers Jaw).
The Californians didn’t give much away in the build-up to Is Survived By. Anyone looking for clues amongst scraps that varied from the hopeful themes on the band’s split EP with Pianos Become The Teeth, to some of the mushy tweets released into the ether by mild-mannered front man, Jeremy Bolm, would have found little but red herrings.
Bolm may be in a better frame of mind these days, but on the first song ‘Just Exist’, we find him pondering his own mortality and confessing to what “was possibly my loudest cliché” (something that will no doubt raise a wry smile on the faces of cynics that will tell you he has enough to choose from). In spite of Brad Wood’s slick production, the angular, frenzied tempo changes which propel the song forwards sound rawer than anything off PTSBBAM.
Next song ‘To Write Content’ is one of the few songs – perhaps the only – that could fit comfortably on PTSBBAM. It starts abruptly and rises and falls in the way that you’d expect a Touché Amoré song to do. The guitars waltz through the brief moment of calm in the middle of the song, before crashing back in and spiralling away from each other. Much of the rest of the album is mostly mid-paced and generally a lot more melodic, with dynamics that often border on post-rock territory.
Although this is a recurring formula, there are still exceptions. ‘Anyone / Anything’ is catchier than anything they’ve written before. Similarly, ‘Blue Angels’ is much lighter than older material, with the guest vocal that punctuates the song feeling similar to Fucked Up’s use of Dallas Green on their second album. Both songs are tuneful enough for radio and it’s only Bolm’s sandpapered bark that redirects the songs back onto a more familiar path.
While Is Survived By will see Touché Amoré reach wider audiences than ever before, but despite being a more accessible record, it’s not nearly as immediate as its predecessor. If Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me was the record that lifted the lid on the band’s astonishing capabilities, the follow-up is here to show us what else they have in their locker. Whether it’s the gorgeous two minute build-up to ‘Non Fiction’ or the pathos that strings together the outstanding trio of songs that close the album, the pleasures of Is Survived By are more subtle than before. It’s a multi-layered record driven as much by the band’s outstanding technical proficiency as Bolm’s personal catharsis, and becomes more and more rewarding with each subsequent listen.
Sounds Like: Defeater, Modern Life Is War, Goodtime Boys
Standout Tracks: Is Survived By, Just Exist, To Write Content