There's little more annoying on this planet than the immoral majority telling you how essential, transcendent and (huh-huh) seminal a particular extreme album is, when you know that it's overrated as fuck. Hence, our new Wednesday morning column, "Disposable Heroes," in which one brave soul sails against the current to inform all you clones why you can't spell classic without "ass." This week, Anthony Bartkewicz sludge-pops the balloon on Torche's mighty Meanderthal. Man, Decibel’s top 40 albums of the year list for 2008 is a real crapfest, huh? Assasins, Genghis Tron, Toxic Holocaust, Witch… jeez. Trap Them and Coffins, you seem so lonely on there. I’m sorry Decibel writers thought Testament and Gojira were better than you. We’re talking about at least eight or nine enthusiastic Kylie Minogue fans, though, so don’t sweat it.
I blame myself. In 2008 I was contractually forbidden from contributing to dB by my job, so I didn’t send in my end-of-year list. This sucks because I would have put Ayat’s Six Years of Dormant Hatred as my No. 1, which in Deci-poll mathematics would have given it a good chance of landing on the the Top 40 so it’d get a positive blurb and maybe a few more people would listen to Ayat instead of lame bullshit. More importantly, putting my picks and rankings into the mix could have thrown the numbers enough that something besides Torche’s Meanderthal would have ended up as the album of the year.
Now, I’m pro-Torche. The self-titled Floor album was a proof-of-concept for a very cool musical approach, and Torche’s first full-length was a continuation that refined and improved like it was supposed to. It got them a lot of attention pretty quickly. It might be the Meantime of the '00s. But damned if Meanderthal isn’t Torche’s Betty, and double-damned if Betty wasn’t the first Helmet disc you sold when you decided to cull the unessentials from your collection.
“Triumph of Venus” is what I imagine Coheed and Cambria sound like. I don’t need to hear Coheed and Cambria to know I don’t like them. C&C probably have more annoying vocals though, so I’ll give Torche that. (And to be fair, “Triumph of Venus” is an instrumental.) The vocals are fine on Meanderthal, the problem is that its two primary modes are fast songs that somehow have no urgency to them, and cheesy radio rock songs that sound like the Foo Fighters or some shit.
The tempo thing is weird because I usually want everyone to play faster. I’m into Torche’s more recent Songs for Singles, which could’ve come out on Cruz Records. But “Pirana,” “Speed of the Nail” and “Healer” all speed by without dropping any real hooks. Well, I guess they were saving the hooks for “Across the Shields”! This is the biggest radio rock move on the record. I mean, I don’t even like Cave In, but people got mad at Cave In for things that were way less Better Than Ezra than this.
There are a couple of cool heavy songs on Meanderthal. There are better heavy songs on every other Torche record. I seriously think they’re a good band! I listened to it a bunch of times to write this and the most memorable thing about it is that “Sundown” is a really impressive Jawbox tribute. And that’s just not enough to cut it for me as a Decibel album of the year. Maybe my votes wouldn’t have made a difference and Meanderthal still would have charmed everyone except me in 2008, but we’ll never know. Maybe in an alternate timeline 2011, somebody else would be writing a Deciblog entry right now about how Gods and Queens or Origin aren’t so great, like “that’s right, I don’t care, someone had to say it.” Or people wouldn’t like GridLink anymore because they were overhyped. Fuck, we really dodged a bullet there with the potential alternate timelines. Anyway, Meanderthal isn’t so great. Some of it’s heavy and a lot of it is catchy, but I’ve already got heavy and catchy records that don’t have radio rock songs on them.