Touché Amoré - ...To the Beat of a Dead Horse [12 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Touché Amoré

...To the Beat of a Dead Horse [12 inch] (2009)

6131 / Collect

Touche Amore turned heads with their self-titled demo/7", an aggressive but forward-thinking record that made the most out of discontent and youthful angst. The band's hotly anticipated (cultishly, anyway) first LP, ...To the Beat of a Dead Horse, makes good on those promises and then some. What this album really is is slightly melodic, modern hardcore (think Modern Life Is War) with dynamics employed via a heavy trad-screamo influence (think Pg. 99), logically extending itself from the 7", only with way better songs.

Frontman Jeremy's hoarse, jagged yelp leads a cavalcade of thoughtful guitar work, tempo changes and musical mood swings. There might be a silly, poetic turn of phrase from him in "And Now It's Happening in Mine," where he references sure influences ("I'll go to Morrissey to answer my questions, 'cause Ian Curtis has left me hanging."), but it doesn't kill the mood at all, fortunately.

There's two incredibly deliberate stop-starts in the album's longest, "Honest Sleep"; the first is preceded by some flailing drum fills and Jeremy's desperate punctuality ("Sun down / sun up"), before you hear a mid-tempo drive as frantic as it can sound, and by the end, a cathartic sing-along that's been replicated as an apt set closer for the band's fraught live sets.

The guest vocal appearances blend in nicely, as Thursday's Geoff Rickly helps transform the carefully medium-paced "History Reshits Itself" into one of the album's more melodic standouts by its end, while Modern Life Is War's Jeffrey Eaton gets a scratchy yelp in "Always Running Never Looking Back" akin to MLIW's epic "Midnight in America" (the song). While he sounds a little different and even younger somehow, compared to Midnight in America (recorded two years ago), it's just good to hear Eaton again on anything.

"Suckerfish" features dueling octaves, one set jangled and the other a more atmospheric touch while Jeremy bears some curt admissions ("I'll call her 'Destroyer' / and I'll destroy her"). "Broken Records" attempts some more pounding pauses that work in the band's favor before Jeremy attests to the cold embrace of urban desolation ("My heart lies in Los Angeles"), while one of the record's best, "Nine" therapeutically reveals all in under a minute ("I'm biting the hairs on my arm like I do / when I don't know where I am or what I should do. / I've been blessed with these eyes that come with innocent questions, / like where I'm from, holding expectations / to give obvious answers and tell no lies. / But I swear there's nothing innocent in these eyes, / because I've seen dead friends, / and I've seen murder, / and I've done things I wish I hadn't done.").

While the production's a little thin and raw, it really only complements the desperation and anguish that largely burrows itself as the record's center thesis. However one ultimately chooses to categorize ...To the Beat of a Dead Horse, it should be mindful of the idea that this is an accomplished and powerful debut.

Swimming with Sharks