Whether it’s with their blistering mixture of post-hardcore, punk and screamo, constantly barraging listeners with a driving force of music as emotionally heavy as it is aggressive, or their 200+ shows a year work ethic, Touché Amoré is a band that doesn’t stop. Since their inception, they’ve not gone a year without issuing at least one official release. Last year, it was their critically acclaimed and widely adored sophomore album, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, and this year, it’s Live On BBC Radio 1. Recorded last summer during a tour of the United Kingdom, the band was invited to perform for the BBC’s The Punk Show with legendary engineer Simon Askew (Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Interpol). What followed was a performance on par with the caliber of musicianship expected of groups recording in a space as hallowed as the BBC’s Radio 1, but not often found in a band rooted in the modern hardcore scene.
With “~” (pronounced Tilde), Touché Amoré begin the recording in the same manner in which they opened Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, the album this track originates from: a sustained and ambient guitar chord for the just under fifteen seconds before bursting into the breakneck 2/4 time signature the band has become known for throughout their various releases. Building in tempo and intensity as the song sprints forward, “~” ends with vocalist Jeremy Bolm screaming the words, “If actions speak louder than words, I’m the most deafening noise you’ve heard. I’ll be that ringing in your ears, that will stick around for years.”
“Home Away From Here” quickly follows and without a seconds rest, picks up the speed, displaying drummer Elliot Babin’s precision and commanding presence over the song’s various tempo changes. It’s at this point where Bolm’s vocals are at their finest. Intense, yet clear enough to audibly understand the words behind his screams, “Home Away From Here” guides the listener through the emotions and repercussions in the narrator’s realization that a life on the road is more suitable to him than the comforts of home.
Opening the second half of the recording is “I’ll Deserve Just That.” Originally appearing on a split 7-inch with La Dispute, the song features guest vocals from none other than La Dispute’s Jordan Dryer. To say that this is the record’s most memorable moment would be an understatement. As it turns out, the UK tour Touché Amoré was in the middle of when this recording took place was supporting La Dispute and Dreyer was able to participate, marking one of the few times they’ve been able to perform the song in its original form. The back and forth between Bolm and Dreyer’s drastically different vocal styles bring the song to a fully realized state before hitting its peak with an abrupt stop.
What I consider the biggest success of the release is the band’s ability to translate their chaotic live performance, which often finds crowds piling onto the stage and sharing the microphone with Bolm, into the session setting of BBC Radio 1, while still retaining the indistinguishable qualities that make Touché Amoré one of the most popular live bands in hardcore. Though this may not seem like an incredible accomplishment to those used to attending concerts in which band members remain in their pre-determined area of large stage with little to no interaction with their fans, it’s a giant feat for a group like Touché Amoré that normally isn’t attached to studio monitors.
By the time we reach the session’s final track, it’s become apparent that the group is one most comfortable in the live setting. Although both their albums and various 7-inch splits show an urgency lost in most of this generation’s screamo acts, the energy of this recording is unparalleled to any of their previous efforts. “Amends” is no different. By far the most heart-retching and emotionally exhausting song the band has ever written, “Amends” closes out the latest offering with loud and syncopated crashes, putting the finishing touch on a radio session this band could not have done a better job on.
Sound Quality: After weeks of listening to the recording via MP3 files, I was incredibly impressed with the sound of the vinyl. Although I enjoyed and formed my opinions about this release while listening to digital files, the vinyl brought new depth and warmth to the songs, greatly improving the listening experience.
Packaging: Deathwish Inc. has always been a label with a heavy emphasis on the vinyl format and packaging. This release is no exception. Packaged in a 14” x 11” insert folded in half, and then on it’s sides, Live On BBC Radio 1 is filled with snap shots from the recording session. Photographed by La Dispute’s Adam Vass and Brad Vander Lugt, as well as designed by Touché Amoré’s very own Nick Steinhardt, the photos take full advantage of this unique take on DIY punk’s standard fold over 7-inch insert. The vinyl itself is housed in a white dust sleeve.
Extras: A digital download card is included, as well as an immediate download when purchased directly from Deathwish Inc.
Summary: Clocking in at a brief seven minutes, Live On BBC Radio 1 is a historic recording of a young band further cementing their place in the long-standing tradition of aggressive yet emotional post-hardcore bands of the 2000s. You can pick up the record at Deathwish.
Make Sure To Spin: “~” and “I’ll Deserve Just That”