05 November 2010

Bear Hands, Burning Bush Supper Club (2010): Album Review

Bear Hands are the very epitome of the word “hipster.” When asked about how they survive the chaos of music festivals, they simply state “Marijuana, sleep bag, granola bars.” These are definitely guys with their priorities straight. They began in Brooklyn in 2006—all messing around writing music and such, and soon enough playing small venues in New York City. Now, they’re headed out on a nationwide tour—coming to our very own Tucson, Arizona, on November 14th in celebration of their first, full-fledged album, Burning Bush Supper Club.

The thumping chords and screeching falsetto of “Crime Pays” give the record a satisfying start, with vocalist Dylan Rau crooning out the simple yet catchy chorus. And with opening lyrics like “At the gentle age of nine/I bought my first ‘45” and “I drink, I drink/I smoke a little weed,” the tune “Belongings” blatantly has “hipster anthem” written all over it. The instrumentals begin a bit lackluster, but prove to be quite gratifying mid-way through with some luminous guitar work by Ted Feldman. Straight from their EP earlier this year, “What A Drag” sounds quite electrifying but never truly takes off. The vocals in particular seem quite constrained, and I found myself just waiting for Rau to let loose complete with some crazy guitar solo. “High Society” defies my grievances though, and features a bumping 80’s vibe that is simply bubbling with energy. The next tune, “Tablasaurus,” is quite mellow throughout with a vast array of string and keyboard instrumentals, but does not leave a very firm impression despite its playful spirit. And despite it’s peculiar title, “Julien Donkey Boy” has quite dull lyrics even with all the epic drums and cymbals aside. Yes, whining “Julien, where are you? /Donkey, donkey boys are sold for 50 at the market,” does get a little repetitive after the 18th time. The beginning of “Wicksey Boxing” is eerily reminiscent “Violet Hill” by Coldplay’s opening chords. That is about where the similarities end, and that is by no means a condemnation. I really couldn’t articulate most of the lyrics of the song, but the melody is so haunting with its ominous guitar scales and brooding drum beats that I couldn’t help thinking, “Damn. This is a beautiful song.” It’s a different side of the band, and a real treat to experience. “Blood and Treasure” is a complete departure from its predecessor, and is almost like Ritalin in music-form. Loud, quality rock in its truest form, Bear Hands brings to mind the likes of The Fratellis and Kings of Leon here. My favorite song of the record would definitely be “Can’t Stick Em” which begins really slow, but quickly adds the drum kits and crescendos into an angst-ridden anthem about the importance of home. Sure, that sounds cheesy, but when delivered by the charismatic Rau, one can’t help but be both moved and overjoyed. Too bad his barely-audible vocals of the tedious “Camel Convention” are drowned out by earsplitting amps and guitar chords suffering from Tourette’s. “Tall Trees” is a short and pleasant tune to neatly wrap up the album and leave the listener on a happy note. Not much else to really say about it.

Burning Bush Supper Club was a mixed batch—while featuring some spirited and distinctive gems, there was its share of conventional and banal indie rock. I think their sound fits the style of the Blaze and other alternative-oriented enthusiasts perfectly, but certainly lagged some in the creativity department. Without a doubt, Bear Hands has tremendous potential, and will surely find their way into the hearts of iPods of hipsters everywhere.

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