It seems strange to me that an album so filled with such rancor, regret, confusion and loss has come along and filled me with such a rush of life-affirming adrenaline, but this is exactly the case. This second long-player from US indie pop band Gold-Bears is an absolute jolt to the system. The album jumps right in with eleven fantastic blasts of sheer immediacy – all of which merge abruptly into one another – giving this collection the feel of a hot live show from a well rehearsed endlessly energetic band. This transports me back to being a 15 year old again, smashed against the stage of a sweaty club gasping for breath as the band flies through these upbeat fiery moments of sheer raw emotion and excitement. This album, my introduction to Gold-Bears, is an instant addiction.
Where does Slumberland Records find so many great bands? Where was I when Gold- Bears released their first LP in 2011? This is the third year in a row that Slumberland has introduced me to absolutely thrilling acts, like last year’s Joanna Gruesome premiere, and the 2012 debut from Evans the Death. This kind of hot streak rivals, if not surpasses their landmark earliest days – even Black Tambourine’s Pam Berry guests on backing vocals. This album falls right into the corner for those of us who loved Boyracer’s debut compilation LP (More Songs About Frustration and Self-Hate) on Slumberland from 20 years ago. They share a similar frenetic, high energy, messy passion and portrayal of all kinds of matters of the heart and it is invigorating.
I don’t know, but I’m guessing some kind of major break up or divorce may be the impetus for many of these songs. My clue comes from the wonderfully catchy early Superchunk-esque burner “For You,” which contains the bitter lyric: “I heard you’re upset because I sold your ring / it was just a reminder that you never did anything for me.” It’s this palpable recent hurt that drives this breathtaking collection. The fresh stabbing pain of betrayal comes out in spades with the album’s downbeat closer, “Fathers and Daughters,” where band leader Jeremy Underwood lists a multitude of things wrong with his ex – each with the prelude “who am I to tell you?” But it’s the first three songs of this album that truly set the stage. The opening two and a half minute blast of “Yeah, Tonight,” a duet with former Standard Fare singer Emma Kupa (here listed as ‘Cooper’), details the mixed emotions during the initial parting of ways (“my histrionics only began to exist on the day I decided to leave”). Again, the album is mixed so almost all of the songs bump directly into one another. This is especially exciting between “Yeah, Tonight” and the second sharp incisive song “Chest,” which rivals anything from the early Wedding Present albums, both musically and lyrically. “Chest” captures the mixed emotions of the early stages of a split by combining both angry lines (“everyone thinks the worst / they think that you’re worthless / yeah, they do!”) and those strong feelings of connection that are oh so difficult to let go (“and I will love you like the way that you could never love yourself”). Then we’re immediately jolted into the ripping and careening “Death with Drums” that adds an urgent organ hum up front into the intense sounds already created by all the guitars and the driving drums and don’t miss the killer opening line: “’Til death do us part,’ we let it die,” as Underwood’s earnest vocal desperately reaches out for understanding (sounding like Mac McCaughan, or one of the guys from Defiance, Ohio). It’s not until the fourth song, “I Hope They’re Right,” where we are allowed a moment to breathe. The song is quiet in comparison to the opening attack, but those buzzing remnants provide a constant ringing of feedback humming and loud bass booms try to overcome the quiet acoustic picking and whispered words of reflection and pining hopes of leaving a positive and/or stinging tinge of regret for the one left behind (“if it’s true what everybody says / then she will never feel this way again / I hope they’re right”).
There are so many great songs here that have me pretty damn fired up. The quick shout along “Memo” is an amazing minute and a half of brilliance, while the one “long” song (five minutes) “Hey, Sophie” finds the regretful Underwood singing to his lost love and from far away and letting go of some of the anger (“I’m sorry it had to be this way”) and remembering better times – all atop a bedding of a Seamonsters-era Wedding Present relentless pounding beat before an extended dreamy instrumental closing. Elsewhere, another former Slumberland alum gets a nod, as “From Tallahassee to Gainesville” draws from a similar on the cheap Phil Spector style “wall of sound” early 60s doo-wop that Henry’s Dress once performed so beautifully and briefly.
I almost feel guilty deriving so much enjoyment and enthusiasm from such hurt, but it is the sheer force of will that gives this collection such an inspiring and life-affirming drive. For that, I will listen and absorb all of the power it provides and be the better for it. Do not miss this album.
Gold-Bears "Yeah, Tonight"