There is an inherent pleasure in experiencing the artistic process in real time. It humanizes the finished product – makes it tangible and realistic instead of revered and admired. For the artist the gratification is in displaying the creative process, and for the audience the justification of the art’s authenticity, and its aura, is the gift. It is this sense of being there, of entering the scene in media res, that gives Live on BBC Radio One Vol. 2 its charm. Touché Amoré’s profile as an enigmatic band has grown since the 2013 release of the fantastic …Is Survived By, largely thanks to the frank caterwaul of frontman Jeremy Bolm.
Vol. 2 kicks off without ceremony, but instead precision, as the thumping opening chords of “Just Exist” break through feedback. From there the band rips into three of the standout tracks from Is Survived By along with “Gravity, Metaphorically” from their split with Pianos Become the Teeth. The songs’ adherence to their original identities situates the audience in the room, and the band always conveys a stubborn dedication to the execution of the song without ever giving the impression that they are posturing.
Bolm’s vocal performance is the keystone to this effort. He is visceral and raw as a frontman, his vocals holding nothing back and are often delivered in a near spoken cadence. The effect of Bolm’s style is to create what feels like an improvised conversation -one where emoting feels more authentic and less performed. The context of a studio album gives us the impression that we are watching him through a lens, digesting something very real but distant. The live performance given on BBC Vol. 2, however, brings a different life to moments like his outro roar in “Harbor” and the anguish of his lamenting verse in “Gravity, Metaphorically”. The minor fluctuations in his voice, and the battle he fights to be heard above the surrounding band accentuate the aura of his vocal style. A vast majority of artists carry an augmented essence when performing live – as if they are hoping to fill the shell that their recorded selves have created. Because of the natural humanity of Bolm’s style, his live persona is the magnificent shell that he attempts to fill on record. Live on BBC Volume 2 wonderfully captures this dynamic, and the way that it lends itself to the cohesion of the band.
In the coming years it’s likely that bands will rely on non-album formats, and little snacks like Touché Amoré’s latest are welcome additions. As holding an audience’s attention is getting harder, successful bands will still demand to be heard, and find a way to make themselves necessary. Jeremy Bolm and co. prove that they can still be extremely engaging when breaking out of their native format. Similar to the recent Bouncing Souls / The Menzingers split and Fucked Up’s singles from Glass Boys, Live on BBC Radio One: Vol. 2 shows that while the set isn’t necessarily essential listening, it’s an enjoyable and worthwhile release.