Growing up I was ideologically opposed to emo music, something which I am happy has changed as I’ve gotten older. It is the explosive expression of pent up anxiety that post-hardcore bands like Touché Amoré specialise in that converted me. Touché Amoré’s sound has also changed substantially in the last decade. Their music is no less passionate or overwhelming but now includes jangly guitars and hidden pop melodies amongst the noise which makes me gravitate towards them further.
‘Limelight’, sung with a different accent, would compare well with the best post-punk revival tracks of the last 10 years. Definitely something for those who are tribal about the genres they subscribe to consider. The furious choruses are my favourite moment of this LP. The guitars on opening track ‘Come Heroine’ paint in primary colours, it is an instrumentally simple, four chord rock song with the motivation of shaking the listener – it succeeds. Title track ‘Lament’ is far tricksier in comparison, it is layered and detailed. New wave guitars clash with Jeremy Bolm’s strained vocals – it is shocking how laid bare and vulnerable he makes himself. “You’d think by now I’d know my place/ but I lose it almost every day”.
It’s not all as serious as this. ‘Reminders’ is a fragrant teen bop hit about reminding yourself of the good aspects of your life and personality – it is fitted out with cathartic, croaky scream-singing. I challenge anyone to at least not raise a smile to the delightfully charming and quirky chorus, it’s deeply engaging. Similarly ‘Feign’ has an almost camp, frivolous sensibility to it, hidden behind overt expressions of self-hatred and self-consciousness. It’s the most fun way I’ve ever seen these troubling themes presented.
Effort is put into making sure there is enough light and shade across the record. There are enough quieter moments mixed in with the noisier, freeing ones. ‘Exit Row’ being a particularly dynamic example, continually switching out different layers of instrumentation each with completely different levels of intensity.
Despite some clear efforts to mix things up, the last third of the album sounds tired in comparison. ‘A Broadcast’ is an oddly tentative ballad for Touché Amoré, they sound outside of their comfort zone and fail to make an impression. When they then return the status quo, the songs ‘I’ll Be Your Host’ and ‘Deflector’ sound redundant as the same flavours have been explored in more effective ways earlier in the record. The weakest track is the closer ‘A Forecast’ where they fail to nail another half-hearted ballad before copping out and launching into the same characteristics as the bulk of the previous 10 songs. The spotlight is put on the lyrics in the quieter half of this track and reveals a rambling lack of focus. “I found the patience for jazz/ I still love the Coen brothers… So here’s the record closer/ still working out its intent/ I’m not sure what I’m after”.
Whilst there is a disappointing second half to Lament, the first 6 tracks are unmissable, essential rock songs. Touché Amoré easily has it in them to turn round a thrilling, impenetrable record, but to do so probably need to avoid breaking the half an hour mark.
Lament is out now on Epitaph.