[30 August 2009]
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.