Torche – Restarter

To say that Torche is heavy is an understatement. Torche is heavier than the sound of a thousand suns imploding. Torche is more crushing than the shifting of tectonic plates. Torche is louder than the atomic bomb.

But underneath all of the bombast, Torche delivers hooks. Torche has melodies. Torche is fun. Hell, Torche is pop.

The aptly titled Restarter finds Torche at yet another of those make-or-break moments that journalists, hacks and whores (like myself) slaver over. It seems that Torche has been one of those “on-the-verge-of-a-breakthrough” bands for about a decade – but, for some reason or other, the stars haven’t been aligned just so to yield a proverbial bigtime commercial breakthrough. Maybe it’s just that the band has had bad luck with record labels. Or maybe it’s because there is no “mass media” through which bands like Torche would be exposed to a mass audience. Or maybe it’s just that rock bands don’t “break through” to the mainstream anymore. But Torche has nevertheless built a fine career on its own, thank you.

With Restarter, Torche employs the tried and true formula of riffs + hooks + melody + distortion/volume = X, or something. Torche continues to hone its craft. This is the third great Torche album in a row. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I caution, however, that the (above) formula might be a bit reductive. The formula might more capably explain The Jesus and Mary Chain. (I’m betting that Torche auteur Steve Brooks probably likes the Jesus and Mary Chain – but Brooks is doing something a bit more complex and evolved with Torche.) Let’s unpack this a little more.

Restarter is best appreciated as an album (or as a suite of musical movements) rather than as individual “pop” songs per se. It’s not exactly like each song is a singular unit with the usual three-minute verse-chorus-verse, conflict-to-resolution thing. While there are certainly memorable melodies deeply embedded in the album’s vast continents of sludge, it’s not like you’re going to be remembering a certain lyrical phrase that is repeated ad nauseam in the refrain. And it’s not like you can exactly tap your foot all the way through – unless you’re some kind of polyrhythmic math genius, that is. This is to say that while Torche’s oeuvre is definitely accessible, it’s nowhere nearly as simple as it seems.

If you listen closely, you’ll find that Torche busts out of the 4/4 thing quite often. What makes this so cool, though, is that the complex rhythms always seem simple and make sense. This is what separates great bands like Torche from jackoffs like Rush (or Slint, for that matter). With Rush, it’s all herky-jerky, engineered to show off the musicians’ dexterity as, like, really good musicians (cough, gag) – whereas with Torche, the polyrhythms serve the music. The inbuilt complexities are there because it works – not so that the Neil Pearts and Steve Vais of the world (and God knows there are too many of them) can show off by playing a million notes in a millisecond. I digress.

Yes, Restarter is broken up into ten units that work on their own as “songs.” And yes, said songs are catchy. But Restarter is best taken as a 40-minute musical cycle – replete with numerous great hooks, that is. It grows on you.

In summary, Restarter seamlessly melds uber-heaviness with a pop sensibility to yield high art that is anything but pretentions or off-putting. Restarter is pop, but it’s certainly not saccharine. Restarter is tremendously heavy, minus the onus of heavy metal clichés. Right now, this is about as good as it gets. Right now, Torche might just be the best band there is.