posted on 4/2008 By:
After what has seemed like an eternity, the shroud of Minnesota's prolonged winter is finally lifting. Within these northern climes, there are precious few months where the sun shines brightly and the windows are cranked down - these days are treasured, and they shall be upon us very soon. The soundtrack to this seasonal bliss should rock hard and hang loose, a well-suited score for the breezy, invigorating atmosphere. So, apologies to Sons of Northern Darkness, but you'll have to hang up your spikes for the time being.
For over a decade, those with a craving for the ultimate summertime swing turned to the undisputed champions, Kyuss. Year-in, year-out, the thrill of blasting the living fuck out of "Green Machine" and "Asteroid" has been heretofore unmatched. Then, out of nowhere (well, Florida) this band Torche rises like the sun across the Lake Superior horizon and throws down a challenge for that championship belt. With their not-quite-metal chunkiness, fatter-than-a-swollen cactus fuzzpunch, and pop-oriented hookiness, they conjured a veritable geyser of infatuation within this springtime window. And, it was in the throes of this infatuation where I made this statement:
Torche is the new Kyuss.
Criminally bold, indeed, and slightly misleading. But the parallel is there, man. Meanderthal is primed and poised to be one of the year's preeminent summertime jams, and it's packed to its pronounced eyebrows with ultra-fat desert riffs and infectious choruses. And those choruses; in spite of the washed-out effects that are used to mask the fact that frontman Steve Brooks is a fundamentally flawed vocalist, the lilting hooks he injects into these songs are absolutely flooring (pun intended). The midsection triumvirate of "Speed of the Nail", "Healer", and "Across The Shields" showcases their pop-rock approach at its peak. This shit is tailor-made for stick-shifting down the freeway at ludicrious speeds while bathing in the euphoria of daydreams and riffery. However, that euphoria comes at a price.
As is the case with nearly everything with a finger in the pop-flavored soup, the overt catchiness is going to lend itself to either timelessness or disposablilty. Unfortunately, while packed with its fair share of flat-out excellent songs, Meanderthal lends itself to the latter camp. Speeding along at an almost too-brief clip, air-guitar anthems like "Fat Waves" get lost in the shuffle, while doomier, sludgier trudgers "Sandstorm" and "Amesian" froth to the forefront. Fighting for a more pronounced role (but ultimately losing the battle), the revved-up scorchers found herein, while undoubtedly cool, don't lend themselves to classic status, and the down-tempo chunkers aren't as compelling as they should be.
Meanderthal is an album that hits extremely hard on first listen. Spastic mini-instrumentals, fantastic guitar tone, and those aforementioned gigantic hooks all convene for a bright-shining, head-bobbing jam session. Once the sun sets, however, the moonlight reveals the fact that this sophomore album harbors a handful of stunning tracks amid a host of mediocrity, and their challenge for the title belt may have been made in haste. Expanding, strengthening, and emboldening their most kickass traits would do wonders for their longevity. While Torche truly capture that hair-in-the-wind, loner-amid-the-madness vibe that Kyuss possessed and so many bands have strived for - the impact just doesn't smack hard enough to last. Personally, I'll be cranking the speedballin' riff from "Across The Sheilds" on roadtrips and at barbeques all damn summer, but until the band can put some meat on their bones, they'll have to settle for the title of "Little Champion".
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