Bi-Polar Bear is a two-man white hip-hop group that comes with a sophomore album, When Ledge Is Home, into a rather crowded space, pop culturally. You see, Stone Temple Pilots had a song titled “Bi-Polar Bear”. Bi-Polar Bear was also a character on the adult cartoon Queer Duck. There’s also an Australian rock band with the name, whose members suffer from mental health issues. And there’s other flotsam and jetsam around the Web that would suggest that Bi-Polar Bear or Bears is a popular band and DJ name overall. So Gabe Karter (aka “Ug Orwell”) and Andy Kaufman (apparently his real name, though he also goes by the moniker “August”) are using a rather popular name for their rap outfit. What distinguishes them from all the rest?
Well, what sets Bi-Polar Bear, the hip-hop group, apart from its brethren is that the duo is unafraid to rap about a rather unsavory topic: suicide. While When Ledge Is Home proves that Ug can MC with the best of them, and August offers quite the soulful production (though there’s sometimes a lack of focus as the songs kind of sometimes slip out from underneath them), you can’t really get around the subject matter of some of their boasts. I’m reminded of a line from a song by ‘90s Boston power pop band the Cavedogs that goes, “We’re just three white rich kids / Bitching ‘bout the world / We think we got problems / We ain’t got problems.” And that’s essentially my concern with Bi-Polar Bear: I’m left having listened to this record being quite unsure of what the duo’s problems in life are aside from a little anxiety at approaching their thirties, or maybe getting dumped and hurt by girls – their raps are generally clever in their wordplay, masking any attempt at real autobiographical emotion.
When Ledge Is Home is proof that Ug and August are clearly talented, one would hope that they maybe stop and smell the flowers and realize that life ain’t all that bad after all. This disc is certainly raw, and there are some interesting, paradoxically uplifting melodies and production choices (such as a sample of a woman repeating the word “kill” over the front of “Keel”) but overall its lack of humor, save for a bit of a wink at the very end of the disc, and apparent lack of sincerity – since it’s masked by cleverness – makes for a somewhat one-note and one-dimensional listen. Still, When Ledge Is Home is enjoyable enough on its own terms. One just wishes for a little more understanding behind the source of this duo’s alleged depression and suicidal tendencies.