I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating (unintended pun) – I can’t believe Norwich based Bearsuit have been around so long. Looking back through my record collection, I see the album ‘Team Ping Pong’ was released in 2005 and they even feature on the Kats Karavan compilation collection with ‘Itsuko Got Married’ – recorded ‘in session’ for the marvellous John Peel show in 2003.
(And have you noticed too, how young policemen look these days?)
The band’s line-up has obviously changed several times over such a long period, as has their sound. But not so their ability to split opinion! Just have a look at the reviews on this very site of the two singles to have been lifted so far from ‘The Phantom Forest’ Each to their own of course, and the opinions on LOUD HORIZON are completely honest and personal, but having liked the band sufficiently in their earlier days to search out and buy an album, my loyalty remains intact. In fact, I would say it has even been reinforced with the release of this album.
In saying that the band’s ‘sound’ has changed over the years, this is mainly due to the dispensing of a reliance on stringed and brass instruments to bulk out the music. The atmosphere is a bit dirtier and darker. A bit more ‘mature,’ dare I say?
This is perhaps best illustrated on the slower-paced ‘Ghosts Of The Black Hole,’ the title alone of which would indicate a move away from the more ‘twee,’ sound of some earlier material. Consider the track in relation to the album title itself, and a vivid image is created that is backed up by the sombre but melodic vocal interplay as the song intensifies from start to finish.
Elsewhere, the album is filled with synths and danceable beats augmented by some lovely girl / boy harmonies and trade-offs, sprinkled with lavish toppings of girly yelps. In fact this aspect, when married to the synth / keyboard, at times results in a glorious You Say Party / Shrag sounding hybrid. Which will do nicely for me, thank you very much! This is very much the case with the bass and keys lines on album opener, ‘Princess, You’re A Test,’ sounding like the former, while the vocals on ‘A Train Wreck’ bear reference to the latter.
On the other hand, ‘When Will I Be Queen’ reminds me a little of Tom Tom Club’s ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ in its chorus and backing, while the quirky discordant guitar, stomping beat and pounding bass-line of ‘Giant Archaeopteryx’ hints at The Victorian English Gentlemens Club.
Thankfully though, none of this comes across merely as ‘copyist,’ and indeed you have to remember that Bearsuit had all this ‘artrock’ business going on several years ago, even if the sound was a diluted version of what it is today.
‘Cut Loose,’ has a sort of ‘Happy Days’ feel to it, with little late Fifties / Sixties echoes in the chorus, and the marvellous ‘Kwaa-Kwaa’ builds into a dramatic and atmospheric sing-a-long with lovely, almost heavenly sounding backing vocals and crashing cymbals trying to outmuscle the keyboards in the chorus.
Final track ‘Dawn Of The Golden Oriole’ again manifests shimmering, autumnal misty woodland images before even a note is struck, and is a lovely, tranquil (almost cinematic) conclusion to an album that is essentially full of bounce and good times.
It may take a listen or two, but patience is undoubtedly rewarded in this case.
(Released through Fortuna Pop! On 14th March 2011)