Touché Amoré and La Dispute - Searching for a Pulse/The Worth of the World

A definitive post-hardcore experience in under nine minutes.

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ALBUM: Searching for a Pulse/The Worth of the World

ARTIST: Touché Amoré and La Dispute



Genres are a damning, almost oppressive, tool in this day and age.

The breadth of music, in all its forms, that’s instantly available nowadays should be breeding a more inclusive and well-versed generation of casual fans of music. Instead, there’s less of an urge to seek out variety, less of a thrill in trekking through countless garbage records to find that one jewel. Less of a desire to experience discovering new artists, that aren’t really all that new, tucked and hidden away neatly under the endless catalogue of art - not to mention discovering entire genres of music you never knew existed. It’s not just “rock,” “metal,” “country.” Nor is it just “hip-hop,” and “EDM,” and “pop.” There’s shoegaze, trap, drill, spoken-word, acoustic, ambient, 2-step, heavy metal, metalcore, post-hardcore, hardcore, progressive, mathcore. Now, more than ever, skimming by entire genres of music, simply based on a preconceived notion of what that genre entails, is second nature. It’s not that everyday people are listening to less music, it’s actually the opposite. Instead of exploring and braving uncharted (and unheard of) territory, we are only interested in consuming as much as is directly available to us, in a field we already feel complacent in. Albums rarely get spun for weeks on end, rather only until “hotnewhiphop” premiers another new track.

And, somewhere amidst this mess of genres, the chronic-tunnel vision of casual fans of music has kicked into hyperdrive - ignoring certain genres entirely because they might be too “aggressive,” and use “harsh vocals,” while blaring the latest Chief Keef single, instead of realizing it’s all one and the same. The basic rhythm, the tempo, the collision of instruments and white noise, traditional vocals and unique tics. All music is derived from a common core - you have to at least give it a try.

In 2010, one of my favorite bands, La Dispute, decided to release a split EP with a band I had always seen as kind of a lesser counterpart. Touché Amoré was a more typical hardcore ensemble, complete with the excessive aggression and dread as well as the extremely short runtimes for their songs. They weren’t far removed from La Dispute, but were starkly more abrasive and down to Earth. Hemingway to La Dispute’s Shakespeare. A clashing of basic structure and execution. The EP was to contain two songs a piece from each band, totaling in four tracks I thought would probably seem inconsequential between each band’s own LPs. But boy was I wrong; together they created a definitive post-hardcore release - take that genre- labeling however you may.

With a runtime of 8 minutes and 55 seconds, both frontmen, La Dispute’s Jordan Dreyer and Touché Amoré’s Jeremy Bolm, craft a series of statements for the world to digest uncomfortably, probably finding an awkward solace at the same time in the release offered by simply shouting your sorrows at the stars. Touché Amoré’s brutal honesty conjoins with La Dispute’s trademark poeticism for an onslaught of brash yet melodic existential revolts. The reasons why we all deserve what we get, and get what we deserve, followed by how we feel, and the reasons (or lack thereof) that it scares us.

It’s fitting that La Dispute, and Dreyer specifically, are left to deal with the emotions - "How I Feel" and "Why it Scares Me" - after Touché Amore has tackled the nihilistic "I'll Get My Just Deserve" and "I'll Deserve Just That" mentality. Both bands are in their comfort zone in that aspect, the more rugged and traditionally hardcore Touché Amoré applying the crass brevity of their craft to the first half of this release as La Dispute use the latter half as icing on the cake to pen more melodic and resonating counterparts. Touché Amoré tackles a baser anger, a more palpable frustration, while La Dispute grasps at the strings behind the curtain.

When you get passed the genre constraints, Searching for a Pulse/The Worth of the World is a tightly produced and brilliantly concise project that meshes two variants of the same style into a resonating and relentless force. Give it a try and question if your “movements are stage directions,” as I try, like I have been since I heard this record at sixteen, to believe that “the way I am is just the way it goes/for the things that came, not the things I chose.”

“My movements are stage directions”

1. I'll Get My Just Deserve
The most impressive aspect of this record is the seamless blend of both styles - the sly, seasoned wordsmith that is Dryer giving and taking equally from his more grizzled counterpart, Bolm. As Touché Amoré takes over the crass and energetic barrage of infectiously aggressive instrumentation, Dryer strings together effectively sparse passages such as "I’m not as clever as my words but I’m as sly as a thief/I’m as open as a casket with my fears and my beliefs/It’s the sick leading the blind/I bury truth and blame my pride/Now the blind as become sick with their eyes now open wide." When the roles are reversed, Bolm is able to make his bands presence hold more weight by matching Dryer's creativity in his own, purposefully rough around the edges, manner: "Searching for a pulse in this lifeless city is less a quest, it’s wishful thinking/If you measured mine on an EKG/I’d resemble the skyline out by 7th street." The track concludes with a frantic goodbye to their "skin" as it "walks out the door," leaving them as petrified shadows and giving them their "just deserve".10.0
2. I'll Deserve Just That
Even though La Dispute can always pull the brakes and halt to a drudging, more abrasive tone, they've steadily become more melodic ever since their haphazard metalcore/post-hardcore debut back in 2004. Touché Amoré, although similar in delivery, is a counterpoint to La Dispute's execution with their much shorter, condensed tracks that strive to attack the listener with a flurry of sounds, or drain them of their unwarranted warmth. This provides for a unique mix on the second of the Touché Amoré helmed songs, which seems drawn and grating but contains a slow build up in the background that explodes for mere seconds before cutting away. Dryer and Bolm paint a picture of a "nobody" that "doesn't deserve anybody," and "would rather be left alone" - a portrait of a man blaming himself for everything and anything, including, apparently, even hurricanes.8.0
3. How I Feel
The abrupt conclusion to the previous song is a perfect segue into the first of the two La Dispute tracks. "How I Feel" bursts open with a distinct and infectious rhythm as Dryer showcases what makes La Dispute one of the most interesting bands in the genre. He played his part in complimenting Bolm on the previous two tracks but now he's the front runner once again - the stark and unique melody of La Dispute on full blast. They limit their run time to match Touché Amoré's standard fair, but are still able to exercise their usual storytelling and rhythmic shifts in tone. Dryer twists phrases like "on my car" into sounding like "oh my god" ("thaw me out" to "romeo"), breaks away into his signature, almost spoken-word cadence, and then reverts back to crafting a damningly addictive melody ("Who knew what to do/Who knew how to feel and/Felt that/Love of the past/The worth of the world/Just set it ablaze and/Thaw me out") all in about two minutes. Bolm fits nicely into the mold, providing an added edge to Dryer's hook, and echoing his sentiments "to be the one who figured it out" - because, "if the best I can do ain’t gonna stop what’s coming/what’s the point in trying to change how the hand plays out," they ask. Or, rather, scream and yell and shout and declare at us, before the inevitable question on an EP of this sort - "don't we all just die?" - leaves them at a loss for words.10.0
4. Why It Scares Me
On the stunning conclusion to this (too) brief, but relentless, EP, Dreyer pens a romanticized suicide letter of sorts. In a manner wholly unique to the poetry and prose he was influenced by for countless of year before he ever decided to pick up a mic or write a song, he wears part of the track blatantly on his sleeve while somehow weaving together an almost Shakespearian ballad. There’s plenty of cynicism throughout the song, and the EP for that matter, but the payoff results from the oddly hopeful remorse, a kind of morbid curiosity that can be played off as optimism. Dreyer worries that everyone is acting, himself included. “My movements are stage directions,” he claims, and questions: “was that a change in topic or a beat in a scene? Have I been taking my emotional cues from a script I wrote at sixteen?” He’s confused if it’s just his incessant thinking, his brooding and obsessive nature, if it was “love or just lust/caked in blood or old rust,” or if “pain and disdain for the past” follow the same, never-ending, cyclic tide that washes away our worries, as well as drags them in. He doesn’t have the answers, but he’s finally realized that “if we’re still here, and we still breathe/at least we’ve still got time to figure it out/to know what to do/to know how to feel.” Dreyer simply wants to separate the ghosts in his head from the ghosts he knows exist in the world - a way to pack his memories in his heart, so that he knows all the love he’s got. He wants to strip the strings behind the stage by the time he’s on his deathbed - even if it’s just “to know if a curtain drops.”10.0
Narsimha Chintaluri is a creative writer currently satiating his need to write by venting about music, tv and film on any given platform.

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