Live Review: Torche

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Torche/Fat Goth/Shields

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 18th Aug 2013

It’s a funny old world, after all. The night previous to this I was sat in the grounds of a stately home watching thousands of wretched middle and upper class toffs wave their beflagged umbrellas in the air as the English National Orchestra prom’ed their way through half the Classic FM playlist marked National Pride (with a stirring rendition of the Star Wars Theme thrown in for good measure) with a sense of mixed enjoyment at the spectacle and revulsion at the company I was forced to endure.

Tonight I’m ankle deep in hipster douchebags smoking brown papered roll ups and endlessly moving their fringes out of the way of their lensless glasses, feeling much the same way, except on the second night I don’t get the enjoyment of watching middle aged women attempting to dance to the distinctly un-groovable rhythms of classical music.

Torche, those grande-dames of the stoner sludge scene, have graced these blighted isles with a whistlestop three date tour, so I was expecting the rather tidgy Brudenell Social Club to be busier than I find it, even if it is a Sunday night. The sun is still listlessly hanging about when the first band, the ‘not at all influenced by TorcheShields, take the stage, and as a result they play mainly to the people queuing up for cans of Red Stripe. Those few who do stick around are treated to some pretty tidy riffathons from a band clearly still working to find their place but showing plenty of potential. They also seem to be fronted by Charlie Brooker, marking a potential new revenue stream for the be-fopped angst machine and making Shields the best thing he’s done for the last few years since he disappeared on a journey up his own colon. Actually, it isn’t him, it’s just someone who looks a little bit like him, but it has allowed me to indulge in some petty remarks about a former hero of mine for a few sentences and fill up some space. Writing!

Fat Goth are next, and at first I’m too busy looking at the bassist’s Star Trek T shirt and his resemblance to Kerbdog singer Cormac Battle and thinking that this means he must be destined to be my best friend someday to really take them in. Once I do start paying attention I’m delighted to find a band that sound like my entire record collection by the end of the 90’s, all playing at once. Fat Goth meld together the 90’s Brit Rock penchant for hooky songwriting with a big dose of American alternative eccentricity and ending up with something that is just damned good fun. Most enjoyable, not that you’d guess from the blinked appreciation of the assembled bearded douchebags who watch them.

Then we come to the main event, and the room fills with people and you think, ok, we’ve got a thing going here. Torche come on stage and burst into a big slab of gloriously sludgy groove and the crowd goes crazy. Well, they shuffle their feet a bit. Stare at the stage. They may give out a beleaguered sigh of appreciation.

Torche ignore this (I presume they are used to it, having picked up the Pitchfork crowd a few years back) and barrel on, ignoring the slight sound issues to swing between their gloriously catchy pop songs to their sledgehammer heavy doom with the enthusiasm of an E4 presenter at the end of a Refreshers binge.

They are staggeringly tight, and seem intent on delivering a ‘greatest hits’ set, which translates to playing basically every song they’ve ever done. The likes of Kicking and Letting Go from Harmonicraft sit alongside Grenades and Healer from Meanderthal with ease, the slight nature of the newer material beefed out by a live sound that can best be described as ‘holy bullcrap heavy’. Over the course of the next hour, Torche delight the parts of the crowd that seem capable of emotion, and manage to elicit no response whatsoever from the rest of them.

These people have gone to the trouble of buying a ticket, turning up at the gig, making their way down into the crowd and then somehow fail to find the energy to give the band back anything other than begrudgingly issued polite applause. Given the barnstorming performance of the band themselves, one can only assume that that dancing, nodding heads, raised arms and hollering in appreciation are passé these days. I indulge in all of these things to the bewilderment of those around me.

In retort, Torche bring their set to a close with the two sludgiest compositions in their impressive arsenal, turning briefly into the ghosts of Godflesh made manifest, bruising and battering the crowd into submission with a fervent intensity. In the end, they walk offstage to a rapturous applause, even the douchebag contingent forced to admit that that there was a hell of a performance.

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