It’s been almost 24 hours since I saw Torche, HUM, and Failure at House of Blues Orlando, and even after a nice 10 1/2 hour workday I’m still in a state of euphoria. I feel as though I’ve accomplished this life-long quest and checked one of the few remaining items off of my bucket list: seeing HUM play live.
Please allow me to clarify. Torche and Failure bathed the crowd in sonic generosity last night as well.
Matter of fact, bill opener Torche (hailing from Miami of all places) threw down so hard that I saw a few people obviously not familiar with the band had that “I just got my face melted off unexpectedly,” semi-perplexed look on their visage after their set. In no way am I comparing the bands, but to me it’d be fair to say that Torche brings with them a stoner-rock, doomy sludge sound that would allow them to fit on a bill with bands like Mastodon, Witch, Crobot, Clutch, ISIS, or even Black Sabbath.
They are not metal, but they’re probably one of the heaviest bands you’re going to listen to right now. One of best things about them is that their music is deceptively clever, lots of rhythmic shifts. And the grooves … Oh man, the grooves. They know just how to dip deep into one and then turn on a dime and take the rhythm to a very different, yet equally groovalicious flavor. And when you’re not expecting it, they bring some psychedelic rock into the fray.
Singer/guitarist Steve Brooks was hanging out after their set and was very cool to chat with. The guy never stopped smiling.
I’m quite looking forward to seeing this band again in January at Will’s Pub.
So you can check them out, here’s a video of their performance from the night.
Headliner Failure left a deep, long-term impression on the house of how to perfectly execute a polished, crystalline sounding art-rock performance. Everything about their show was done with class and opaquely noticeable elegance. Ears dripped with sonic dew. Even though the Los Angeles based band didn’t exist from ’97-’14, you’d think they’ve been perfecting their craft the entire time watching them play. Perfect, every note.
There exists a blatant mistake of labeling this band as grunge or alternative because their primary lifespan was from 1990-1997. What they were doing in that era had more in common, I believe, with bands from various eras such as Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, A Perfect Circle, and The Appleseed Cast. It is rumored that Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan’s favorite band is Failure and that he was directly influential on the band’s reunion. Highly plausible, considering the history between the bands. In the ’90s the band toured with Tool, more than once, and A Perfect Circle covered Failure’s song, “The Nurse Who Loved Me” on their album 13th Step. And that A Perfect Circle Connection …
Troy Van Leeuwen was a member of Failure from ’96-’97 and during the breakup era has been a member of multiple bands including Queens of the Stone Age and…… A Perfect Circle. I’ve seen APC multiple times (admittedly, I’m a huge fan) and they always put on one of the best shows seen in the modern era. And talk about a super group. It’s ridiculous! Former and current members of Smashing Pumpkins, NIN, Devo, Marilyn Manson, and aforementioned Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, and Failure.
Van Leeuwen (who joined the tour at the last second) brought that polished, unmistakeable L.A. vibe right into the mix with Failure and their performance was absolutely spellbinding. Wonderfully crisp, yet thick tones came from every instrument, bringing the observer right into the middle of their world, their Fantastic Planet.
This recent performance from Live on KEXP (sans Van Leeuwen) displays just how good they are at what they do. Here’s a video of their set from House of Blues by The Sober Goat.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been listening to Champaigne, Illinois’ noise-rock pioneers HUM since 1995, when their sole radio-hit, “Stars,” was played without announcement on Central Florida radio station, 101.1 WJRR. This was in the pre-Clear Channel years when FM radio was still a valid source of new music (and MTV too, believe it or not) and there were no such things as corporate playlists. I was sixteen. Without thinking, I stopped what I was doing after the song finished, called the radio station, and tried to learn more about this band I just heard out of nowhere that had some of the most amazing guitar tones and drum work I’d ever heard. At the time, it was really a pivotal moment in my life in terms of how I perceived and thought about “rock.”
Here’s them performing “Stars” on MTV, a rare treat.
I didn’t play music yet, but was already a ravenous music enthusiast, so their use of extreme guitar distortion to create beautiful melodies and hooks captured me instantly. Rhythm section? Absolutely destroying it and simultaneously creating hooks of their own. What?!? Nothing I’d ever heard sounded like this. And for the time, I had heard a lot. More than most even. Ever since that night in tenth grade of interrupted homework, I’ve been a diehard fan.
Fast forward twenty years. I’ve been a musician for the last 15. Due to their 14 year breakup and just bad timing in my youth, I’d never gotten to see them play. Until now. This is the most fulfilling show I’ve ever been to. In my life.
Their set began with the songs “Little Dipper” and “The Pod,” which are the first two songs on their 1995 RCA major label debut, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. It was a poignant way to start their set, as these were the first two songs heard by the majority of their fanbase when we listened to Astronaut for the first time twenty plus years ago.
From the first notes, HUM blanketed the sizeable audience with their heavy-yet-unsettlingly soothing guitar sounds. The sound is so big that it’s blissfully overwhelming. Most modern metal guitar tones pale in comparison, yet the style and playing of the riffs is so utterly opposite of metal that it’s clear that there is no attempt at association. Matt Talbot and Tim Lash have been two of my choice guitarists for decades now.
And while all that noise is sweetly blowing your brain apart, you pay attention to the drums just getting the living death played out of them. In such an impressive fashion, I might add, that the beats, rhythms and approaches have influenced me as a player for my entire career. Jeff Dimpsey’s basslines are probably the most underrated element to this band’s music. (Perhaps alongside the unique and entrancing tambor of Matt Talbott’s voice.) Bass hooks are not easy to pull off in any form of unconventional rock, but this guy has some of the best you’ll find. So snaring, you’ll hear them when you wake up in the morning.
The set was filled with favorites from Astronaut like “Suicide Machine” and of course, “Stars.” They also played some songs from final RCA release, 1998’s Downward is Heavenward. This album is in my top ten records of all time and frankly, I believe it’s one of the most well-recorded and produced records ever. A couple personal choice cuts that night were “Green to Me,” accompanied by pretty saturating green lighting, as well as the emotionally vulnerable, “Afternoon With the Axolotls.” HUM is not afraid to write sad songs, which to me are some of the best songs. Hardcore fans were treated to “Iron Clad Lou” from the band’s 1993 Martians Go Home release, Electra2000. They really hit all the bases during the course of their approximately one hour and fifteen minute set. I relished every note.
At the end of the evening I had the absolute fortune of chatting with Tim and Matt for a few minutes. Having met and played shows with an infinite number of musicians whom I respect, I don’t really fanboy out when I meet artists. That said, I had to suppress the urge to fanboy out when I met these dudes. Awesomely, they were both very humble, unassumptive, and friendly guys. They couldn’t have been any more thankful for the showing of so many fans and the experience.
One can only hope that, with the reception this recent tour received, HUM writes another album to share with us. For them to tour behind it would be even better. In the event that never happens, I am thankful after twenty years to have gotten to see and hear them do what they do live. I really don’t want to wait that long for the next show, though. 🙂
HUM Live Review w/ Torche & Failure by Josh Jauz.
HUM Live Photos w/ Torche & Failure by Richie Williams, aka The Sober Goat.
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