Review Summary: Torche return with 13 tracks of sun-drenched stoner-pop mayhem.
The way I see it, there are two main genres that can make the perfect soundtrack to a summer's day - pop-punk (especially the ska-tinged side of it) and desert rock. Spending the day in the park, kicking a ball around, drinking, and generally having a laugh with a few mates should naturally be accompanied by the bouncy, cheery sounds of cheery pop-punk, until everyone heads back to the garden of whoever lives nearest town to fire up the barbecue, crack open a few more cans, and lounge around listening to a bit of Kyuss as the sun starts to set. Damn, if only Torche
had been around in the early 2000s, it's a fair bet that Meanderthal
would never have left my boombox for the entirety of the summer, providing as it does both the mellifluous grooves and laid-back mood of Sky Valley
and the catchy, upbeat melodies of 90s pop-punk.
Take first song proper "Grenades"
- thick, downtuned riffs bubble up and flow like crude oil, with guitar leads shimmering above them like heat haze off an asphalt road, not to mention a solid rhythmic backbone and the soaring vocal melodies and harmonies topping it all off. Similarly, "Sandstorm"
and "Without a Sound"
bring the low-end rumbles and relatively slow pace you'd associate with the finest of stoner-rock, again tempering it with some huge melodies. The "Melvins
-go-pop" tag that some have given Torche
in the past sums up the feel of these songs pretty well.
That said, Meanderthal
has enough twists and turns to keep you on your feet throughout, upping the tempo considerably, with tracks like "Speed of the Nail"
and personal favourite "Healer"
coming on like prime mid-90s EpiFat skatepunk. Conversely, the band slow to a snail's pace, and largely dispense with the pop sensibilities for the (admittedly slightly over-long) "Amnesian."
Intro track "Triumph of Venus"
features some guitarwork eerily reminiscent of The Fall of Troy
, and hell, "Sundown"
even comes across at times like a stoned nephew of Jawbreaker
's classic "Accident Prone,"
in terms of instrumentation - an unusual comparison to make between such vastly different bands, but not an uncomplimentary one!
It's this broad range of influences, and the band's willingness to explore every area of their fairly unique sound, which makes Meanderthal
such a versatile and enjoyable record. With a slightly less sludgy production job than their previous work (courtesy of Kurt Ballou, who also contributes a few guitar parts) and a heightened songwriting ability, Torche
have crafted a record which (aside from the largely pointless title track) is instantly brilliant, and yet still yields rewards with multiple listens. Time to fire up the grill and the stereo, crack open a beer, sit back, and relax to the soundtrack to Summer 2008.