Gut-wrenching lyrics aren’t something Too Close To Touch tend to shy away from, especially considering the source material they’ve had to work with. On last year’s debut full-length Nerve Endings, they laid bare struggles with mental health issues, and combining that with a more pop-tinged take on the typical post-hardcore sound, earned plenty of ‘hotly-tipped’ labels. And based on new record Haven’t Been Myself, that doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
A lot of Haven’t Been Myself is inspired by the tragic death of singer Keaton Pierce’s three-year-old sister, and the emotion at its core is as raw on record as it would have been first hand. It hits hard lyrically, especially paired with Pierce’s impassioned performance – ranging from defeated whispers to pained screams. The majority of tracks – Sympathy and What I Wish I Could Forget in particular – skirt around the incident, thus leaving any listener in the dark about the inspiration for the album trying to piece together what happened. That is, until stunning closer Eiley, which addresses it head on with searing honesty. Lines like “Why did she die when I’m the one deserving it?” and “What about my mother and father? / They lost a child and deep inside they wither” cut right to the bone, and contribute to making it far and away the best track on the record. The impact of the lyrics mixed with the epic instrumentation and huge chorus just makes Eiley highlight how blurred together the rest of Haven’t Been Myself gets. It’s the only song that’s really easy to recall afterwards, and it’s a bit of an overdue letdown once the album has finished.
That being said, it doesn’t mean Haven’t Been Myself is a bad album. There are some possible genre-leading post-hardcore tracks on here – Miss Your Face is powered by nothing but anguish, while Translate manages to be tender and thundering at the same time. It’s clear that Too Close To Touch are the experts on their own little musical niche, but there are a few missteps. Sympathy is too slow to be an effective opener for a post-hardcore album, while synth-led cut The Art Of Eye Contact is dying to be beefed up, preferably with some drums. It has to be stressed, though, how much the similarity of much of the material on this album takes away from the overall listening experience. The over-saturation and arguable decline (in anywhere but America, anyway) in post-hardcore music may have a bit to do with why this affects it so much, but if Too Close To Touch had put their heart and soul into this record as much as they did Eiley, it’d be a very different (and probably more successful) story.
It’s easy to see why Too Close To Touch have been getting so much attention – they’re injecting life back into a genre which is often dismissed as having had its heyday years ago, and with material that’s certainly deserving of such praise. Haven’t Been Myself shows glints of promise throughout, but it’s clear that they’re still finding their feet. If they were to capitalise more on their unique characteristics, there’d be no telling what heights they could hit.
For fans of: I The Mighty, Emarosa, Sleeping With Sirens
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Haven’t Been Myself’ by Too Close To Touch is out now on Epitaph Records.