I write about horror movies. I love punk rock. For the longest time, I’ve thought of those two interests as bedfellows, cousins and best fucking friends ‘til the end. They operate on similar wavelengths; even the more controlled aspects of each build to something raw, visceral and sometimes transgressive, with the best of both always reactionary and begging for physical response. Similarly, both gangs are built on initiating the young. Sure, a casual movie fan may truly enjoy a horror film or a Ramones song or two, but to understand it—to be it—is ingrained often when you’re in the throes of adolescence. That can lead to a jaded worldview however, seeing fans grow older and either losing interest, or simply believing a new generation’s worth of shitty venues and shitty attitudes have little to offer.
Enter, ergo, thusly or whatever word gets you in the mood to have me flip this on you and introduce:
Touché Amoré. Hailing from Los Angeles, Touché Amoré is part of a new breed with an old soul, and on their way to becoming something of a punk band that matters. Weird, right? Built on foundations laid by early hardcore (most especially bands like the great, and very emotive Rites of Spring), post-hardcore and the late 90s wave of what’s known as proper screamo—or more derogatorily, but kind of delightfully Skramz—like Orchid (holy shit, this song) and American Nightmare/Give up the Ghost, Touché Amoré have found, with propulsive energy, a perfect meeting place of chaos, melancholy and optimism, with lyrics focused both on the intensely personal and, in true punk fashion, the world and human rights at large. And it’s all done with no posturing, but more the need to say these things out loud.
Nowhere is that more clear than the band’s incredible live show, which seems to inspire less shitty kicks and punches in the pit and serious passion in the audience. The type of passion that has their fans crawling to the front because at that exact point, in that split second, they need to be screaming the words that mean most (see below for the a cappella insanity that takes place during “Honest Sleep.”) Said meaning runs a wide spectrum, too. Vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s lyrics are intimate in a way that feels naked and revealing (their new “Anyone/Anything” is positively Smiths-esque), backed by a talented, tight, furious band; one with bright guitars that lend serious urgency. There’s no perfect crafting of misery and bitterness into sassy quips like a great deal of more sugary, relationship-centric heavy music. In fact, Bolm sounds as if he has little time for bitterness at all (for people, at least). Sometimes, it sounds as if he suffers from too much understanding, putting weighty thoughts into his perspective, and the perspective of those around him, which helps when he shifts his sights to urgent issues. “History Reshits Itself,” from 2009 album …TO THE BEAT OF A DEAD HORSE, tackles the horrid Proposition 8, while the featured song, “Wants/Needs” looks at the disparity between the needs of the Earth and the wants of those willing to destroy it.
Both are easily applicable to your own life however. Putting the more global implications of “Wants/ Needs” out of mind, it’s incredible to focus on how Bolm can distill gnashing emotion into such primal purity. It’s hard not to follow your first listen of the song with an immediate repeat so you’re prepared for the incredible, rousing bellow of “YOU CAN’T / CONVINCE ME / WHAT I WANT AND WHAT I NEED ARE SEPARATE THINGS”. Touché Amoré is known for holding onto conviction outside of their live show and studio albums as well. Bolm started his own label, Secret Voice, where in addition to signing new bands with similar spirit, he’s also crafting homemade DIY zines meant to inspire readers and fans. The band has also long refused to be a part of traveling punk co-opter Warped Tour. In comments that caused something of a stir within the genre, Bolm bristles at sharing stages with bands that actively defy the inclusionary spirit of punk, meant to unite audiences of all walks to air it out. Some of the touring festival’s acts are nothing more than pop bands that jam styles together and overlay misogynistic, homophobic lyrics on top, while it’s hardly rare to find ladies up to the fucking front at a Touché show. When asked to expand on his stance, Bolm offered:
“It’s just that there are things on the bill that we would feel poorly about being part of. There are bands that preach things that are very sexist and misogynistic and all that, and if someone who is a TA fan, a female specifically, came to see us play but they had to watch a band play before or after us that make women come off as ‘less-than’ -they’re already made to feel that way in a lot of other areas of the world- to put them through that is fucking awful. I would feel responsible and guilty for that. I would rather just not be part of any of it.”
It’s easy to see then why, in turn, so many want to be a part of them. Instead of wallowing in all that gets us down, Touché Amoré are charged to fight through it, while at the same time recognizing that communal frustration is what guides many of us toward aggressive music. In the aforementioned “Honest Sleep,” he screams “…If I’m doing fine, there’s no point to this.” Indeed.