Edward The Bear
I’m worried about Edward The Bear. I had high praise for their 2001 EP Everybody Gets the Last Laugh (Except You) when I reviewed it earlier this year, because I was majorly in love with their strange and elusive sound. And, since Simple Songs is a compilation of EPs and singles and demos, you get to hear four of those tracks, which seem to combine Spandau Ballet-style new wave balladry with some math-jangle-gothic-southern pop. Those pieces still sound fresh to me, and this collection is probably worth it just for those tracks.
I also kind of like the older stuff collected here: “Everything You Think You Know” was an Internet-only release until now, and “Carbonation Overload” and “The Stranger” were on their first demo, and these tracks showcase what I thought the ETB sound was: angular, unpredictable, adventurous. I especially like “Carbonation Overload,” which is surf-wave and sounds like it’s straight out of Chapel Hill circa 1981.
But the most disturbing part of this comes right at the beginning with the most recent songs, off their Modern Don Quixote EP. These lack, for me, that spirit of wildness and did-they-just-do-that approach of the earlier stuff. The two-part title track and “Many-Splendoured Thing” are slow indie-kid-makeout-jams; they fail to suck, but they also fail to drop the jaw, except for some stunning chord changes on the latter. Sure, George Papanikos’ voice is stunning — he’s a crooner at heart, which used to work to their advantage — and the band is tight without sounding up-tight, if you know what I mean. And it’s cool to hear bassist Jeff Halle’s vocal turn on “Today”: he ain’t bad at all.
But all the unrelieved slowtempo things start to grate on a poor reviewer, and I don’t know where they go from here. It would be a damned shame if ETB turns out to be just a smooth-rockin’ lovers-only band for dyed-hair college-town kiddies. They’ve shown they can do more than that.
Edward The Bear: http://www.edwardthebear.com