Bear Driver – Bear Driver (LP Review)
Review by Jack Foley
BEAR Driver are described as exponents of sunny slacker pop and listening to their eponymous debut album it’s easy to see why. This is a feel-good record par excellence.
Although originating from Leeds, the band possess more of a West Coast sound at times while also drawing favourable comparisons to the likes of Dinosaur Jr, some of their American counterparts or – closer to home – The Cure. But that’s no bad thing.
It’s a consistently lively offering, chock full of sunshine melodies and a sense of being care-free in spite of the occasional dark piece of lyricism. Indeed, you could well imagine many of the songs providing soundtrack accompaniments to countless US TV shows or films.
And that feeling of listening to a near-perfect driving LP is best encapsulated on the sun-drenched Drones, which speaks of keeping hands on the wheel while hitting you with striking guitar riffs and a head-nodding drum beat.
Not that Drones is even the standard by which Bear Driver’s very best should be measured! Opening track Big Love, for instance, is a fuzzy, warm, celebratory offering that sets things rolling in suitably bright fashion, while former IndieLondon single of the week Enemy contains one of the most instantly appealing hooks on the LP and a genuinely anthemic chorus.
In contrast, Never Never is a fine example of how the band can slow things down, come over all languid and dreamy… a shoe-gaze classic in waiting that’s drop dead gorgeous.
Intriguingly both Never Never and Big Love were, by the band’s own admission, the products of an all-night session fuelled by wine and The Cure’s greatest hits.
Elsewhere, Colours Run opens amid some genuinely thrilling and intricate guitar riffs, lending it another instant highlight badge (complete with cracking chorus), and No Time To Speak offers their harder rocking ‘juggernaut’ moment… one that has a greater sense of urgency than some of their more laidback, shoe-gaze offerings and which shows they can rock out.
Even when doing things ‘heavy’, though, the song is counter-balanced by that most radio-friendly of elements, the ‘woo hoo’ harmony that also makes it a beach record and a potential surfing favourite.
Cats, meanwhile, really delves into the trippy Cure territory of songs like Lullaby and The Caterpillar, with Oli Deakin’s vocals occasionally coming off like a younger, less world-weary Robert Smith. It’s a woozy, borderline psychedelic moment that once more eases you into a blissed out state of mind.
Impossible, on the other hand, channels the breezier instrumental side of The Cure, with strum-along guitars driving the song forward in harmonious fashion, while Deakin offers up his most stoned set of vocals to date.
It’s a lovely way to ease into the record’s final offering, A Thousand Samurais, which hits you with still more delicious guitar riffs, a kick-ass back-beat and further evidence of the band’s song-writing prowess. It’s a fully fleshed, intricately layered finale that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and good about life.
But then Bear Driver are all about delivering musical sunshine therapy and their eponymous debut LP provides a laidback, consistently beautiful soundtrack to the summer, if not the rest of the year. Do not let it pass you by.
Download picks: Enemy, Never Never, Colours Run, No Time To Speak, Impossible, A Thousand Samurais