Touché Amoré: Is Survived By Album Review

October 13, 2013
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Back in November 2012 when The Cut interviewed Touché Amoré lead vocalist Jeremy Bolm, he showed concern that the band’s third album would determine their legacy. Commenting that many punk bands either don’t make it to a third album or make a terrible one, Bolm went on to say, “I’d like for us to be remembered in good faith as opposed to a band that just strived for acceptance.” Now we have TA’s third album Is Survived By in hand, and after even a single listen we can tell that TA’s legacy is not only established but charging full-force indefinitely.

Is Survived By is bleeding with Bolm’s concern for legacy, especially on the opening track “Just Exist.” After two minutes of surprisingly melodic guitars and existential uncertainty screamed with unwavering certainty, Bolm shouts: “To swallow mortality is enough of a task / And leaving your mark is just too much to ask / I’ll just bow my head / And leave out the back.” The effect is terrifying, a “holy shit” moment that passes quickly as the album charges into the equally reflective “To Write Content,” where Bolm both takes and gives his own advice to songwriters to “expose what hurts you worst.”

That’s the thing about Is Survived By: Every “holy shit” moment that blows you away – and there are many – goes by in a second because the next one is around the corner. For years TA has put out minute-long songs that punch harder than many artists’ entire discographies, and their shift to three-minute songs on Is Survived By shouldn’t go unnoticed. If anything, every riff and word is even more succinct. There is a lot to take in. You can’t be done with Is Survived By in one listen, which you arguably could with many past TA songs. “WeHateFredPhelps.com,” which ends with one of my favorite breakdowns of 2008 and Bolm repeatedly shouting “We’d love to see you in the ground,” is a great song, it’s badass, but I think I can take in all its badassery by the time it’s over. It’s not like “Social Caterpillar,” where lines like “Most people I know / I’ve used as camouflage / I’ve circled myself with pretty people / To hide who I was” knock me down and I have to listen multiple times before I can get back up. It’s not like my new favorite TA song “Non Fiction,” which starts with a minute of slow-paced guitars reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky’s first album before erupting into the biggest cathartic release I’ve had all year.

The point is that Is Survived By is very different from previous TA efforts. Fans will be surprised and post-hardcore newbies will start head-banging when they understandably wouldn’t before. The production gap between this album and their first album …To The Beat of a Dead Horse is huge. The guitars are oftentimes melodic and showcase technical prowess that the band either gained over the years or for some reason never put on record. And after years of laying down some of the most brutal and honest lyrics we’ve had this decade so far, Bolm still manages to dig into thoughts and emotions that hit harder and closer to home. Is Survived By is a clear sign of the band changing in order to, in Bolm’s words, be remembered rather than just accepted. It’s the start of a legacy, which might be the biggest shock the album has to offer; it’s just the start.

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Be sure to check out Touché Amoré with AFI at Club Zoo on Monday, October 14.

 

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