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Bears

Greater Lakes

(Misra; US: 14 Feb 2012; UK: 26 Mar 2012)

This Cleveland outfit has been releasing scrumptious albums since 2005 with this latest––and third full length––record arguably the best to date. Jingling in the right places, gloriously jangling in all the others, loaded with powerful pop harmonies that have more in common with the glory days of AM garage outfits than the utterances of many of this gang’s peers, the 11 easy pieces here won’t disappoint the craft hound or the casual listener bent on bending back into a bygone era of bliss.


Sonically, the group is an amalgamation of The Dream Academy, The Smiths, and the countless bright-eyed wonders that sprang up and disappeared on minuscule labels throughout the Upper Midwest in the wake of The Beatles. Not that that matters. Compare, despair. Where the fingers really hit the frets here is in the songs and there’s a wonderful push and pull to the them infectious little suckers; for the most part we may divide them into two simple categories: the easy to discern strum fest (“You’re Going”) and the multi-layered dreamscape symphony in which what, exactly, is going on, isn’t exactly clear (“From Good to Bad”, the haunting “Don’t Wait”) but that ambiguity, that elusiveness, that enigmatic gusto becomes, quite precisely, the point.


Even then, though, there’s one thing in common twixt those two strands––these guys, as fish often say, really know their way around a hook. Each of the 11 here has some kind of infectious insistence that burrows its way into your ear, your brain, your soul, and resides there, driving you mad with its chilly precision. Witness “I Don’t Have You On My Mind”, a spooky little offering with a train-on-the-track rhythm and a vocal that would send shivers down the spine of an aged Shakespearian ghost.


The Ohioans aren’t about homage, pastiche, etc. At least not entirely. Yep, there’ a hint of The Posies and classic Big Star in “I Can’t Make Things Right” but it’s an update on that sound, on the brilliant harmonies, chord changes and infectious piano and guitar hooks. Maybe that’s a hint of what Bears might achieve on future recordings––to really take us out of the last century and drop us right down into the heart of this one, making us understand that there’s life beyond The Beatles, corners of sound we have yet to explore or even imagine.


The closing update on the teenage-cum-post-adolescent love song, “Until The Very End”, leaves us hopeful for such a future even if it feels familiar, it has a bold state of mind and a gripping hand on our effortlessly throbbing hearts. If falling in love with––or even listening to––more records was this easy, the record industry may not be in the prolonged death rattle it’s suffered for at least 15 years now.


This record––as good as it is––is not going to change that of course but for the treasure seekers, the free thinkers, the freaks, and sonic underbelly dwelling lovers of all things beautiful and true, it shines a bright ray of hope and offers us a warm and prolonged baptism that ultimately welcomes us to a new life.

Rating:

Jedd Beaudoin is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He holds an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Wichita State University and hosts Strange Currency six nights week for Wichita Public Radio. His writing has appeared in No Depression and The Crab Orchard Review as well as at websites such as Ytsejam.com and Amazon.com.


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