Touché Amoré and Pianos Become the Teeth’s pivotal split 7″ turns 10
2011 was the year that the new wave of post-hardcore made its mark, but 2013 was the year that the movement boiled over and started receiving widespread attention outside of the niche fanbase that these bands had been cultivating. It was also the year that the NWOPH bands started branching out from their roots and pushing their music in new directions, something we got our first taste of at the very beginning of 2013 with a pivotal split 7" from Touché Amoré and Pianos Become The Teeth. It came out digitally via Deathwish Inc and Topshelf Records 10 years ago this Sunday (1/8), and received its vinyl release later that January.
The Touché Amoré / Pianos Become the Teeth split only has one song from each band, but this short release is worthy of a 10th anniversary retrospective because those two songs left massive impacts on the directions that Touché and Pianos would take on their next records, and those impacts are still felt on the music these bands are making today. Touché contributed "Gravity, Metaphorically," a song that--at four minutes and seven seconds--was more than double the length of almost every song on Touché's first two albums. They'd already fully perfected their distinct, impassioned approach to post-hardcore on 2011's Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, which remains one of the genre's best and most influential albums of the past decade-plus, but "Gravity, Metaphorically" had a new sense of ambition that Touché Amoré would continue to explore later in 2013 on that year's fantastic Is Survived By, as well as on subsequent albums Stage Four and Lament. The song starts out like classic Touché, with drummer Elliot Babin steering the band from double-time hardcore to a half-time post-rock crescendo, as Jeremy Bolm spills his guts and the interlocking guitars of Clayton Stevens and Nick Steinhardt add beauty to the madness. About halfway through, everything cuts out except a sole guitar. The band gradually re-enters, Jeremy shouts "It was the first time in a long time that I felt alive... at least I tried," and the song keeps building and building towards its climactic ending. Looking back, it's hard to imagine a song like Lament standout "Limelight" existing without this song laying the groundwork, and "Gravity, Metaphorically" remains not just one of Touché Amoré's best non-album tracks, but one of their best songs in general, and a staple of their live sets to this day.
As significant as "Gravity, Metaphorically" is, Pianos Become the Teeth's contribution to this split was even more monumental. PBTT's excellent 2011 sophomore album The Lack Long After left off with "I'll Get By," a more melodic version of the band's screamo/post-rock fusion that hinted at what was to come, but even that song couldn't fully prepare you for what they'd have to offer on "Hiding." Kyle Durfey opens the song by abandoning his once-trademark scream entirely, instead showing off the shaky clean vocals that would come to define the band's game-changing 2014 album Keep You and just about everything they've done since. Blurring the lines between an ever-changing post-rock song and a more traditional verse-chorus structure, "Hiding" is full of thrilling peaks and valleys, with some of the most quotable/memorable hooks and lyrics Kyle's ever written ("Nothing is worse than doing nothing," "You can't stay angry forever, or so I'm told," "I guess it's the things that I don't say"). It's as gorgeous as it is heavy and intense, with beastly drummer David Haik giving it his all, and Kyle reverting back to a scream when the song calls for it. "Hiding" is Pianos at their most pivotal, occupying the exact midpoint between their early screamo material and the more melodic music they've made from Keep You to present day. And there's a reason why, 10 years later, "Hiding" is the band's most-played song live and the one they still end almost every show with. It's not possible to convey the breadth of PBTT's album path to someone in one song, but if you had to do it, "Hiding" would come close. It has a little bit of everything they've ever done, and it remains one of the strongest songs they've ever written. In a way, it leaves you wanting more, because despite capturing the essence of their early days and their latter days, they've never really made another song like this before or since. But when a song is as perfect as "Hiding" is, you don't really need to write it twice.
Touché Amoré will be performing four of their albums in full at their 15th anniversary shows this February.