There were meant to be two other acts on this bill, but unfortunately Hang The Bastard (a band I’ve been wanting to see for bloody AGES) had to pull out due to one of their members being in some kind of unscheduled and painful body/car interface. Rubbish news, get well soon chap. As for the other support band? Well, my old mum always taught me that that if you can’t say anything nice you shouldn’t say anything at all. So that’s that, then.
As one of the most reliably-excellent bands currently out there, a Torche [5/5] gig is ALWAYS going to be something to savour, even if it’s taking place just a few hundred yards from the hipster breeding grounds of Hoxton Square. XOYO is an odd place, and no mistake – there were rather more pairs of thick-rimmed glasses and “50s dad” haircuts in evidence than I’d associate with a band as balls-out heavy as Torche are capable of being, and it detracted somewhat from the decidedly old-school aura of the venue itself. Or maybe I’m just not ‘down with the kids’ these days, I don’t know (this is the most likely, slightly depressing as it may be on a personal level).
My internal struggles with creeping irrelevance aside, here are a couple of facts for those of you that have never seen them before: a) Torche are the happiest people you’ve ever seen on stage, and b) There aren’t many other bands that can bother a building’s foundations in quite such a seismic way. The material from their latest album (Harmonicraft, gushed over by me here) takes on an entirely new dimension in the live arena – it’s still the most insanely rainbow-sprinkled, pop-infused, grin-causing racket you’ve likely ever heard, but Jonathan Nuñez’s bass guitar tone becomes an almost-physical presence. This brings with it a darker, more menacing undercurrent than you hear on the record, but rather than detracting from the likes of ‘Letting Go’, ‘Kicking’ and ‘Snakes Are Charmed’ it actually reinforces their dayglo chirpiness to the point where every single face in the room is plastered with the biggest smile it’s possible for humans to wear.
About three-quarters of the way through the set, Steve Brooks and Andrew Elstner change guitars and this signals not only the impending end but a shift in atmosphere. That tectonic heaviness I alluded to earlier? Yep, this is where it truly makes itself felt – from ‘Mentor’ onwards, Nuñez’ lowest notes became a weapon of bowel-loosening depth and my position right at the front of the crowd started to feel like less of a good idea. The closing trio of songs, including an absolutely crushing ‘Charge Of The Brown Recluse’, genuinely made me fear for the integrity of my fillings!
In short, Torche turned in one of the most fun (and funny – Brooks’ ironic heavy-metal posturing and occasional bursts of aerobics were properly hilarious) shows I’ve been to this year – their unique brand of stoner-inflected sunshiney pop combined with face-smashing metallic weight is massively infectious on record, but assumes an even more brilliant and crushing dimension when delivered with such genuine enthusiasm and disregard for eardrums. Just fantastic.