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Angry Bear

(Coming Home; US: 25 Aug 2009; UK: Import)

To this point, Mellowdrone has enjoyed some moderate success as a harmless little band who might have been described as Pablo Honey-era Radiohead with a few electronic elements thrown into the mix. Said success culminated with a minor hit (“Fashionably Uninvited”) on 2006’s Box that landed on the soundtrack of a quickly forgotten teen thriller (The Invisible). And then, as so often happens with bands who threaten to break into the big time but never quite make it, Mellowdrone were without a label. Choosing to see its position in the ether as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, Mellowdrone went ahead and made an album anyway, consciously deciding to break away from its sound to this point into something bigger, louder, and dirtier. Angry Bear is the result, an album just as clumsy, ferocious, and fascinating as its title. Trading hollow, treated guitar tones for massive amounts of distortion and Thom Yorke’s tenor for Alex Kapranos’ baritone, Mellowdrone splashes around in the swimming pool, looking for a fish.

Occasionally, the band finds one: “Elephant” transforms from a waltz to dance-rock at a whim, and “Big Winner” plows through the speakers with a winning sneer and a sound that evokes a version of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” from the other side of the tracks. Still, it’s largely too calculated in its imperfection, consciously deciding on an unappealing aesthetic that simply weighs the listener down too much to inspire repeated listens. While it’s laudable that the band is willing to change its sound to such a degree, Angry Bear is more experiment than album.


Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.

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