CD/LP (2010 - USA) Hydra Head
1. UFO (1:53)
2. Lay Low (0:51)
3. Hideaway (2:03)
4. Arrowhead (2:17)
5. Shine On My Old Ways (1:49)
6. Cast Into Unknown (2:11)
7. Face The Wall (4:32)
8. Out Again (6:11)
Steve Brooks - guitars/vocals
Rick Smith - drums
Jon Nuñez - bass
Recorded in 2009 by Jon Nuñez at The Dungeon in Miami, FL. Mixed by Jon Nuñez. Mastered by Nick Zampielo. Artwork concept by Rick Smith. Layout by Andrew Cox.
What does one call eight songs in 25 minutes? An EP? A mini-LP? Just don't call it a placeholder -- there are too many bulldozer riffs here, even in the under-a-minute sketches. Either way, 15 years ago, this Miami-Atlanta trio's high-octane sludge pop would've been called indie rock, a subgenre now so constricted that this booming thunder gets lumped in with metal. "Face the Wall" can't help but sound anthemic despite its mood of resignation, but most of these tunes are explosive, including the closer "Out Again," which goes for extended krautrock hypnosis. Even there, not a second is wasted.
- Joe Gross / SPIN Magazine
For anyone familiar with the fiercely leftfield Hydra Head roster, it should come as no surprise that wily Floridians Torche aren’t exactly keen on playing by the rules. Case in point: choosing to follow 08’s monumental and much-lauded ‘Meanderthal’ with ‘Songs For Singles’, a brief, impetuous mini-album which brews up a veritable Creole gumbo of variations in focus, mood and feel over a mere eight tracks. That none of these tracks have actually been released as a single is neither here nor there, but the obtuse juxtaposition of mostly unrelated songs does make for a somewhat disconnected album, especially as the majority judder to a halt in an unexpectedly abrupt manner. Quality-wise, however, nothing here gets less than two thumbs up; from the full-tilt battery of ‘Cast Into Unknown’, to the hypnotically epic ‘Out Again’, the triumphantly anthemic ‘U.F.O’ or the woozy drawl of ‘Face The Wall’, most bands operating in the post-metal landscape would pawn their firstborn for a chance to produce anything this powerful and dripping in soul. Most importantly, ‘Songs For Singles’ is unmistakably a Torche record; primal, punishing, yet irresistibly sweet. It may make a mockery of the traditional album format, but then again, would you expect anything less?
- Pete Withers / ROCK SOUND
While I appreciate that this is a rock review you’re reading, I must tell you that Torche rock like few other rockers do. Their rock, mighty though it certainly is, isn’t rock to run from if your MP3 player preferences are outfits of a rather more sedate nature. See, this is rock that rolls with effortless immediacy, rock that conservative listeners could even consider "proper songs", in a designed-for-daytime-radio sense. It’s heavy, it’s loud, it’s triumphant; but it’s also full of the kind of instant-hit melodies the Cowell-created hordes, or rather their writing teams, would gladly garrote fluffy bunnies for.
The Florida trio – a four-piece until ex-Floor man Juan Montoya picked up his ball and left in late 2008, citing that old favourite: creative differences – have seen their music categorised as "thunder pop" in previous critiques. Honestly, it’s a perfect fit for songs that are equally accessible as they are not-so-sporadically sonically akin to an arsenal going up right beside your left lughole. Songs for Singles is a compact, concise introduction to the band. It’s not quite an album – they’ve two under their belts, both superb: 2005’s eponymous debut, released in the UK through Mogwai’s Rock Action label, and 2008’s Meanderthal, which emerged via Hydra Head, a stable co-founded by Aaron Turner, previously of mighty post-metal outfit Isis – but it offers more than a standard between-LPs EP. If it’s your toe in the door, or pool if you prefer, you’ve picked a fine set to begin your love affair with.
With six of these eight cuts clocking in at around two minutes or less, Songs for Singles doesn’t hang about in making its point: that rock, this rock, can be mightily addictive, and that the habit can develop as early as an initial listen. U.F.O., Lay Low and Hideaway have been and gone in the time it takes most albums to warm up; and unlike many a record’s tentative first steps, these efforts are sensory blitzes that beguile with instantaneous effect. The formula might not be a mind-bender – pop songs played through massive amps (seriously, trim the decibels on some of these and you’ve got McFly’s future hit singles), fast but without unnecessary aggression – but the execution is as perfect as you’ll hear. When proceedings do slow, as on the thick drone-haze of Face the Wall, it’s less to provide the listener with a breather, more to allow them to reflect just how faultlessly well formed the preceding vignettes of vital contemporary rock were.
Rock like rock shouldn’t be: a rock that your parents wouldn’t just love, given a chance, but one that they’d ask you to play again, louder. It ain’t right, obviously. But it rocks brilliantly.
- Mike Diver / BBC MUSIC
There should be more bands like Torche. The Miami trio sits near the top of the underground-metal heap, but they're also the rare underground-metal band happy to come off as regular dudes rather than medieval warriors or swamp monsters. They churn out fuzz-rock bangers with mechanistic precision, never betraying any signs of pretension or mystique. Since the departure of guitarist Juan Montoya, they're an entirely short-haired band, and frontman Steve Brooks sings in a beer-belly bellow, not an elemental rasp. The band take as many cues from ragged 1990s indie as they do from bongwater-dripping 70s crunch-rock, and you can hear echos of Guided By Voices and Superchunk reverberating around in there. They never sacrifice melody for volume, or vice versa-- and somehow, that quality makes them exceptional.
Two years ago, the band came out hard with Meanderthal, which the metal magDecibel called their album of the year while admitting that it sometimes sounds like the Foo Fighters. On Songs for Singles, their new eight-song EP, there's nothing that leaves as deep an impression as some of the best Meanderthal moments. Instead there's an intense focus on brevity, as the first six songs stick as tightly as possible to a very basic formula, sort of like the Ramones did. These songs never get far beyond the two-minute mark. The band plays with heads down, never taking time for solos or anything that registers as a chorus. If you're not paying much attention, the tracks bleed into one another and feel like one long rush of effects-pedal rumble and chunky riffage.
Nothing during these first few songs is all that memorable, but it's always impressive that they're able to work up such furious grooves in such confined spaces, hardly even altering the tempos. This is fun, assured heavy rock, and it gets the job done. But the last two tracks-- the ones where Torche give themselves room to stretch out-- are where Songs for Singles really takes off. "Face the Wall" and "Out Again" are still very much wheelhouse songs for this band, but they slow down their attack noticeably, letting space and dynamics creep into the guitar-storm. "Out Again" is six minutes of relentless pounding, and the band spends its back half abandoning the song-form stuff completely and just vamping hard. It sounds awesome.
With that title, Songs for Singles practically announces itself as a stopgap release, a breather after the breakthrough. If it doesn't shake the earth the way Meanderthaldid, it's not really supposed to. But the EP does show that this band remains in fine working condition, and another full-on album from these guys would be a welcome thing indeed. Until then, this will do just fine.
- Tom Breihan / PITCHFORK MEDIA
Just like Quicksand was to hardcore in the 90's, Torche has become heavy metal's new spank bank. Bands like these give hard-asses an excuse to like a melodic pop band while still maintaining bröötal status. I mean, c'mon, was Meanderthal really that good? What if you stripped away all of Meanderthal's stoned out qualities that created gaps between the saccharine tunes that made up the majority of the disc?
Well, then you'd get Songs for Singles, an 8-song EP of spaced-out vocals and low strung guitars that showcases the sing-song side of Torche. This EP mostly makes the head bob left to right instead of front to back, so you look more Night at the Roxbury than Burn My Eyes. In fact, Songs for Singles brings to mind a lot of mid-to-late 90's references like Betty-style Helmet mixed with parts of Hum, Quicksand, Shift and other post-hardcore unmetal outfits.
The constant kick drums of "UFO" open the record with an upbeat pace. Nimble sticky-sweet guitar licks shape "Hideaway," while "Face Against the Wall" slows things down to a wallflower ballad. "Shine on My Old Ways" experiments with feedback and snare techniques. "Arrowhead" is the only foray into the truly stoner territory, but the offbeat rhythm and rapid drum fills makes it more entertaining than your standard slag of a piece. The best track "Cast into the Unknown" is the only song that feels fully realized. It has the fun riff, the hooky vocal melody and fast, but still pop, tempo.
It is easy to get lost in the swirling atmosphere of down-tuned distortion and heavily reverbed vocal harmonies, but thankfully, Songs for Singles doesn't overstay its welcome. Most of the songs are around two minutes long, except for the last drawn out and bouncy jam, "Out Again." The album doesn't leave you wanting more, but rather hits the spot just right.
Bottom Line: Most of these tunes have elements of what made Meanderthal a critical darling, but Songs for Singles still feels like a quickly-made EP and more of a continuation of what they began on Meanderthal, never getting fleshed out enough to set it apart from its predecessor.
- Joshua D / LAMBGOAT
We know what you're thinking: "Another EP?" Yes, but while the latest from Floridian rock-influenced sludge metal trio Torche is their third in as many years, make no mistake about the wealth and value of the material on Songs For Singles. Initially they intended the tracks for the long-anticipated follow-up to 2008'sMeanderthal, but after growing weary of toiling, the band issued the tunes they felt were complete. At that, they were more than right ― these eight pieces are the most accessibly refined, yet irresistible, tracks Torche have crafted to date. Opening with the atmospheric, catchy, yet eerie, "U.F.O.," before sliding through more haunting pieces such as the mystical "Shine on My Old Ways," drivingly hook-laden "Cast Into Unknown" and grandiose "Out Again," Songs For Singles may be just over 20 minutes, but an awe-inspiring experience is packed into that fleeting length. Moreover, it provokes one to wonder: if this is so great, just how phenomenal are the numbers that aren't yet finished?
- Keith Carman / Exclaim Magazine