It was a Deathwish, Inc double-header the other week when Touché Amoré and Self Defense Family came to town. Well, it was a triple-header if you count Touché Amoré-side project Dad Punchers, who opened the show. Luckily our man Alex Andrews is in to this stuff, so for him it was like getting an extra slice of fried bread with a fry-up.
6 things we learnt watching Touché Amoré in Camden:
1) Long before half of tonight’s audience have spilled out of the nearby pubs, three fifths of Touché Amoré take to the stage as the deceptively-named Dad Punchers. Stepping out from behind his drum kit and up to the microphone, Elliot Babin takes his cues from much of the doe-eyed indie-rock that’s currently popular in punk circles. Luckily, Babin writes bitter-sweet songs that are crammed full of hooks. He may sound like Kermit the Frog, but he achieves a poignant sadness in the way he deadpans mundane subjects like moving out of home or working on Christmas Eve.
2) If Converge are indeed “this generation’s Black Flag,” as Pitchfork once boldly claimed, then Self Defense Family are surely its Fugazi. Having cemented their spiritual connections with the DC band by recording at the legendary Inner Ear Studio, the songs they play from their upcoming LP suggest that they may have now learned to replicate the band’s razor sharp precision.
3) Patrick Kindlon, a self-confessed “free-spirited LA playboy,” is a world away from the stoicism of Ian Mackaye and Guy Picciotto. Shirtless and wiry, he conducts the proceedings with exaggerated staccato gestures. As this is the penultimate date of their mammoth European tour, Kindlon is clearly spent. His strangulated holler is hoarser than usual and besides his rambling anecdotes on Harry Potter and the cultural differences between America and the UK (“you think Pizza Hut is fine dining”), he struggles to articulate himself, almost giving up on explaining the meaning behind a song because it’s too complex and full of “layers and shit.”
4) “We’ve waiting a long time for this show,” says Touché Amoré’s Jeremy Bolm, as he surveys the bulging crowd. It’s easy to be cynical about a band with such a young and devoted following, but the fact that they’re able to headline and even sell-out this kind of venue (small, though it may be) is a result of sheer persistence. Although they may find themselves on the wrong side of the Atlantic, there’s something about their return to London that feels like a homecoming.
5) Having only releasing Is Survived By in September, what is immediately noticeable is the staggering cannon of songs to band now have to choose between. The newer songs sound thunderous and yet they still play a handle of tracks off their thrashier debut. Dimming the lights momentarily, they return to play ‘No Fiction’ and even if does mean that Bolm has to stand awkwardly for the instrumental build-up, the crescendo sounds monumental.
6) If hardcore has indeed split into two entities, then Touché Amoré may be the exception to the rule. On one hand, this is a band who asked Thursday’s Geoff Rickly to guest on their debut and who liberally pass the microphone to scene kids that interrupt shout-outs to a local vegetarian restaurant by chuntering about KFC. On the other hand, they still clearly thrive on sweating it out in cramped cave-like venues, they stay rooted in same sonic foundations that first defined them and as always, they give a performance that’s nothing short of life-affirming.