Review: Self Love by Touché Amore/Self Defense Family
Artist: Touché Amoré and Self Defense Family
Album: Self Love
Recommended if You Like: Defeater, Modern Life Is War, Polar Bear Club, Have Heart
A couple of weeks ago Deathwish records had a major release day, Harms Ways’ Rust, a split between Creative Adult and Self Defense Family, and the long awaited collaboration between Touché Amoré and Self Defense Family were all disseminated into the world.
I pre-ordered all three records, but was eagerly anticipating the Self Love collaboration.
Self Love is the collaborative work between California’s Touché Amoré, and New York’s Self Defense family. The EP was captured by Philadelphia’s finest Will Yip, and credits 15 musicians for its inception.
I originally heard about this work from a Deathwish podcast between Patrick Kindlon (Self Defense Family) and Jeremy Bolm (Touché Amoré), given that both bands have put out an impressive catalog of work, I had high hopes for this EP, and it did deliver.
Overall, I think the idea is still very novel of doing a collaborative record. While there are many collaborations out there (i.e. Killer Be Killed, Them Crooked Vultures) it’s still an idea that isn’t explored as often.
The record begins with the powerful rock/head bobbing anthem “Circa 95”. This song makes use of the screaming vocals of Bolm and Kindlon, and it feels apparent that they really pushed themselves during their takes. While listening I was flashed back to Touché Amoré’s first record …To The Beat Of A Dead Horse where Bolm was still learning how to scream so he is going as hard as he can in every vocal take. Coupled with Kindlon’s vocals that are comparable to his work in Drug Church, both vocalists give this song the hardcore flare that it so discretely displays. Overall, I really enjoyed Bolm and Kindlon’s performance on this collaboration. Both lyricists strengths definitely shined especially on “Circa 95” where the words primarily stay the same throughout the song, yet both vocalists switch off almost creating a call and response effect, especially with the chorus.
The form of the song in general is incredibly simple, yet catchy. The riff itself is only three chords and for the most part is only played during the chorus; the verse is a collection of dissonant noises layered over the bass line that plays the same progression as the chorus.
The drums on this track are also strikingly simple. Upon first listen, I heard elements of what seemed almost like marching band rhythms with both Babbin (Touché) and O’Brien (Self Defense) playing parts that mold together to sound like one drummer. The drums also sound huge on this track with a wealth of reverb layered over them that make you feel as if you are in the room watching the two play.
The B-side to this collaboration called “Low Beams” definitely dives more into the cynical side that Self Defense Family is so famous for. The track makes use of vocals from Kindlon that are muttered describing the more arduous, monotonous aspects of touring in a van, presumably through the winter months. “Low Beams” also provides a stark contrast to the upbeat rock vibe that “Circa 95” carries.
Eventually the lyrical duties switch to Bolm who screams us into a crescendo with the song increasing in tempo after his part. The song ends with the call and response between Bolm and Kindlon that we heard in “Circa 95.”
As far as riffs go, this song is definitely more complex out of the two. The guitar parts in this song are ominous and dreary at first, and still kind of remain in the background, but become much larger as the song gets faster. The guitars on this track are present but not overpowering, they feel like something I might hear on a more doom metal sounding record; loud, but still kind of distant.
The drums on this track also become a little bit more complicated while following the collaborative pattern set in “Circa.” The track starts off with a tomb intro that carries a groove while this odd ringing sound plays on the off beat. The tomb intro continues, until the beat starts to pick up, then the drummers hit this sort of Keith Moon crash where it feels like they just go nuts hitting their kits pretty hard. The latter half of the song definitely has this pounding feel to it that the drums are heavily responsible for, and I think a lot of that comes from the style of Touché Amoré’s drummer Elliot Babbin, who’s animal-like playing shines through on the drum parts in this song.
Overall, I really enjoyed this collaboration. I was sad that it was only two songs because I walked away wanting more. It was easy to tell that this truly was a collaborative process, because I can hear elements of Self Defense as well as Touché – it never felt like there was a heavy weight to one side. Both songs I thought structurally, were well written, and kept me captured for most of the duration, which is always impressive since the average listener gives a song only a few seconds before making a decision about it.
I’m not sure if anything else will come from this collaboration, but I hope it does. Self Love feels like an unrelenting catharsis that pounds away at your inner ear, earning it a strong 9/10 rating.
Self Love can be purchased through Deathwish Records.
April 13th, 2015