Bearhug have long been one of my go-to bands when I, y’know, wanna go all GTA on society. When I’m about to #angstyteen some motherfuckers, and going all trenchcoat Mafia seems like the preferable option over the silent treatment and a quiet bitch, then I know it’s time to chuck on some Bearhug. They’re a band caught somewhere between Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile and The Drones’ more poignant moments. They’re calm, collected and know how to drain every last delicious drop of juice from a guitar.
It’s been a bit over/under a year since we heard from Bearhug, when they quietly released their ‘Over Easy’ EP, to not a whole lot of fanfare. It’s unfortunate that Bearhug didn’t get at least a bit of props, because it’s a great little cocktease of a record. However, the days of Bearhug being underrated are long gone. If people can’t go nuts over ‘So Gone’, then we may as well just start the whole invasion process, and let the apes take over, because I’d much rather let an ape that has a good taste in music rule over me than a confused Gary Oldman that doesn’t even know who TV Colours are.
‘So Gone’ is packed as an album, but Bearhug have done a great job of masking that by making each song stand out as much as they can, entrapping you into taking each song one at a time. They drag you into each song like that lady from M. Night Shyamalan’s much-maligned movie “Lady in the Water”. Each track pulls you under into a state of total content, and it’s pretty freaking easy to get caught up in the hushing, calming throng of it all.
There’s plenty to love about this album, from each song moving strongly into the next one, glubbily sticking to your mind like a Pavement-loving mollusc. Sometimes, the music on the record moves a little into background music territory, but there’s always an amazing riff and delicate washes of sound to bring things back into perspective. For example, the instrumental opener of “Borderlines”, which although nice, doesn’t have much of a grab, swiftly moves into the completely gorgeous and warm double whammy of “Aimee” and “Animal”.
The standouts on this album seem to come in two’s. There’s the aforementioned, then there’s “Acid Town” and “Catacombs”, which are the audio equivalent of holding your breath in an ocean, and having the waves silently thunder above your head, in the most serene way possible. And there’s “Chlorine”, which is a dusty Sonic Youth B-Side from “Rather Ripped” if ever there were one.
Sure, there’s an element of sameness to the record. But that cohesiveness in the record makes Bearhug’s sounds and ideas stick together, and format themselves into something easily digestable. As ‘So Gone’ meanders on, you can easily slot yourself into the record, and enjoy it. There are valuable moments aplenty where your interest will be pricked exponentially, and you’ll want to bury yourself in a mountain of reverb that Bearhug can build so easily around themselves. And then there are moments, when the melody is too much, and and you are sucked into that vortex of guitar with no obvious way to get out.
Sure, Bearhug might wear their influences on their sleeve, but less so than their previous efforts, and they make it up all the more by putting together one hell of an enjoyable listen. They know how to create a pictaresque riff, they know how to take a song to it’s most emotional and tangible height, and they know how to paint pictures that people aren’t painting well anymore. Whatever happens, if you’re listening to ‘So Gone’, there is going to be a point in which you find yourself with eyes closed and a shit eating grin planted on your ugly head.