The Paper Plane
Outlier to Alternative Culture
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been enamored with outsider culture. Whether it was the punk guys I saw in ripped clothing with Mohawks, or the hip-hop that my older brother passed down to me through his collection of cassettes, I always felt a connection to that stuff my parents told me to stay away from.
Fast forward to the present and I have to wonder if they were right. Hip-Hop with it’s non-stop homophobia, and competitive culture of putting each other down through the so called sport of battle rapping, has left me feeling excluded despite my love for the artists who don’t follow the direction of popular rap. Punk music doesn’t fare much better. While many hardcore bands advocate equal rights and compassion among their followers, there’s a fair share of bands that espouse an almost fascist attitude towards issues that result in violence toward minorities, even though this goes against their principal beliefs. One only needs to look to the recent reunion of a band (Chokehold) in my hometown (Hamilton, Ontario), where a trans identifying person was attacked for questioning the band’s new stance on police harassment.
These kind of things are all too common in the realm of hardcore music, and if I had known about it earlier I might never have gotten into this kind of music in the first place. Although I had messed around with punk music when I was younger, it wasn’t until I was at the end of high school that I really got into hardcore music through a band called Touché Amoré. Stemming from an off-shoot of the hardcore genre “Screamo”, Touché Amoré captured me with their emotional highs and lows that spoke volumes to the struggles I was encountering as I came of age. Most importantly, there’s a sense of a real connection in the music between the vocalist and the fans, which is substantiated by the band’s relentless touring schedule.
I’ve seen TA twice now, and they’ve toured many other times, always providing a chance for that real connection to become something special. The first time I saw the band, the depth of the connection I shared with them hadn’t entirely sunk in. By the second time, when I walked past the vocalist Jeremy in front of the venue and a giant smile formed across his face, it was clear what had happened.
In contrast to the first record, Touché’s second album “Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me” is distinctly less self-abasing. It still is, but it’s so much more hopeful that the emotional lows which were so prominent on their debut “To the Beat of a Dead Horse” album, fade into the backdrop of this massive search for happiness that any and everyone is invited to be a part of. The highlight of the album for me is without a doubt “Face Ghost”, which deals with the connection with the listener head on.
After my second Touché concert I bought a shirt that includes the lyrics at the start of the song, “there is weight in the word’s we’ve said”, referring to the cathartic release that comes from facing this emotional turmoil head on. However, it’s the middle of the song that really says it best, “all dressed up in black and gray, we know each other just the same, and every mile that sits between won’t understand what it means to have one look mean everything and throw all caution to the sea.” With these words Touché Amoré was cemented in my mind as a part of my psyche. No longer did I have to feel alone and isolated, for there would always be this band there for me in my time of need.
To some this might seem ridiculous, but for those who were there when Touché toured in promotion of the new album, the shared connection could be felt tangibly in the atmosphere. When the band started playing and Jeremy belted out those first words and the title of the record (albeit with some difficulty getting the vocals to be loud enough), that crowd swayed back and forth like a tsunami of people. Unfortunately there was no stage-diving due to some less than friendly security at the venue, but the sense of motion on display was still outright jarring.
I mostly kept to the left, doing my best to keep from getting thrown to the floor. I made several attempts to make it to the front, but it wasn’t until a rendition of “History Reshits Itself” that the crowd seemingly made way for me to move to the front, and Jeremy held out the mic as low as he could to give me the chance to sing the lyrics, “When you’re walking a thin line between ignorance and confusion, you won’t know the difference between a cycle and a revolution.”
To this day I still contemplate these lyrics. As the song has to do with being gay, these lyrics seem to evoke how finding my sexuality lead to my jaded sense of self and how all of that time I spent inside my head debating my sexuality made my life take a backseat to this internal conflict. Sometimes I wonder how my life might have been different if I’d came out sooner, or felt less pressure to hide in the closet once I knew I was gay. To have a song that identifies with this struggle is something I’ve always appreciated about the band.
Looking forward to the new Touché album, they’ve clearly matured a lot during this past year spent on hiatus. Their last album could be described as transitioning towards more standing-still type music, and on this new album that change could be seen as completed. Nowhere is this more apparent than the music video for Skyscraper. Jeremy foregoes the screamed vocals, and in its stead, sombre cleans, seems to reflect one of his musical influences, The National. The vocals are echoed by Julien Baker marking the first time a guest appearance has taken place on a Touché record, but it’s the hauntingly simple yet effective music video that really make this track stand out as a great album closer.
Even though the subject matter is more personal than it’s ever been, it still feels like a selfless act, a dedication to anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, or in my case fears losing them. When the emotional connection from that music video really sunk in I found myself relating to how Jeremy pushes that empty wheelchair through the New York streets. For me it would be Niagara Falls that captures my mother and her choice to raise me around the Great Lakes. Or Toronto, which is where I plan on seeing Touché when they tour through next month. Jeremy has spoken incredibly fondly of the city when I’ve seen him here on tour, and it just might be the perfect place to ponder the questions I’ve never asked my loved ones.
Touché has always been known for touring with a wide variety of bands, and the current supporting acts like Tiny Moving Parts and Culture Abuse stand as a reminder that every Touché concert should be a fun experience. I am incredibly excited by the prospect of seeing this band again, and so should anyone who is open to the idea of something different. That to me is the great thing about this band, the fact that they truly appeal to so many different types of audiences, and that they can make something which is essentially punk music an open door that anyone can walk through.
If you’re interested in checking out Touché when they visit Toronto next month, check out the event page on Facebook
About the Author
Dylan Kulcher is an avid skateboarder, gamer, music fan, and aspiring journalist from the small airport town of Mount Hope, Hamilton. Always looking for a reason to visit the big city and network outside his comfort zone, Dylan vies to bring communities together with his writing. A member of many LGBTQ groups and participator in his local Pride rallies, he strives for transparency in his life and doesn’t feel like anyone should have to hide in the closet!.