Torche refer to themselves as "crushingly melodic hard-rock." That's arguable. An accurate moniker for the Miami rockers would be something more along the lines of "Not-Quite Foo Fighters, but not so bad rock." If that sounds harsh, it isn't. Rock 'n' Roll just ain't what it used to be.
Old fashioned guitar rock is so rare these days that records like "Harmonicraft" are jarring to listen to. Opening track "Letting Go" wouldn't be out of place on any early to mid 90s album by any faceless indie band of the era. It's one part Mudhoney mixed with two parts Pavement. In 1994, it'd be a revelation.
It'd be kind of me to say that the next few tracks have a stoner-rock influence to them. The sad truth is that they sound exactly like any number of other stoner rock bands. "Kicking", "Walk it Off" and "Reverse Inverted" could be Kyuss songs. In fairness to Torche, the double-guitar riff that serves as a coda to "Reverse Inverted" ranks among the finest bits of math-rock that this reviewer has ever heard.
Not that the record is a total loss. In terms of craftsmanship, "Harmonicraft" is a major leap forward from their last album, 2008's critically-loved Meanderthal. It's just too hard to distinguish one song from another. Somewhere around the middle of the record, it gets easier. "In Pieces" combines the best of their sludge-metal tendancies with a sort-of TV on the Radio vibe, until it builds to a raging, disturbing climax.
Directly after it, "Snakes Are Charmed" brings back the math-rock, but somehow manages to remind you of "Come on Eileen." It's a natural choice for a lead-off single. It's not going to be featured in a blockbuster romantic comedy anytime soon, but it could bring them a slightly wider audience.
"Solitary Traveler" is another standout. Loud, mournful guitars haven't been done this well since Dinosaur Jr's "Green Mind". It's a depressing kind of song in the best of all possible ways. The last two tracks, though, are depressing in the worst kind of way. Both the title track and "Looking On" meander worse than anything this side of Jethro Tull, and at a combined 9 minutes, it's way too much filler.
All things considered, "Harmonicraft" is a passable stepping-stone release. We'll have to wait another couple years (and another couple lineup changes) to find out if our patience will pay off.