Bear vs. Shark
Right Now You're in the Best of Hands and If Something Isn't Quite Right Your Doctor Will Know in a Hurry
For the uninitiated, Bear vs. Shark is a pretty interesting mix of DC/Gainseville Punk, standard post-hardcore, and midwest indie. They're from Michigan but tap into these eclectic group of subgenre niches and even have a great sense of pop melody. The end product lies somewhere in the world of post-punk. If you can imagine a less experimental At the Drive-In with Chuck from Hot Water Music singing, you'd have a pretty good idea of Bear vs. Shark. They're signed to Equal Vision and manage to fit in with Circa Survive, alexisonfire, and the like, even though their style is distinctly divergent.
This unique style would be their most important asset, if it weren't for the great songwriting that absolutely trumps everything here. Singer Marc Paffi has a talent for strong one liners and metaphors, and his great vocal tone is perfect for pulling off these lines. As I mentioned earlier, his voice sounds like Chuck's (Hot Water Music) but with a little bit less slurring. His delivery is "honest" as some reviewers would say. Well, I guess I just said it too, but it's absolutely correct. The presentation isn't as direct and punch-in-the-face as posi hardcore lyrics, but the strength of his voice and the quality of lyric does the trick. His voice, aside from being original, has a pretty decent range. That part isn't as wildly displayed, but it certainly comes across from his lower soft moments ('Kylie') to his outright screams ('Busses/No Busses'), and even his high pitched, hooting, poppy moments ('We Were Sad But Now We're Rebuilding'). There's an anything goes mentality that pays off well. It allows room for experimentation but makes it that much sweeter when he reels the song in and finishes it, which I think is particularly well done on "Ma Jolie." Imagine after screaming, whooping, and whatever else, clinched then by a soft but gruff voice singing:
"This is a poem, a combination
of a sentence broken up to form
a rhythm. you are a poem little pieces
of my senses broken up to form an image"
The instruments are pretty rockin' too. Actually, while on the subject I should mention that this band just rocks. The songs are pretty upbeat. Even when a song like "Kylie" or "MPS" comes around, they are just pretty segues and breathers from the more energetic tracks. But anyway, the instruments are cool. They aren't super technical like with math metal or meticulously varied like some indie, but they are done well. The tones are the usual mix of distorted/abrasive and clean/lush that one would imagine from a band of this ilk, but Bear vs. Shark has that midwest feel. Maybe it's because they are from Michigan, or maybe they really like Braid or Cap'n Jazz, but they have a good sense of how to make their songs sound earthy and quaint. These songs would sound great on vinyl and I can imagine them being just as effective ten years ago, when Bear vs. Shark's influences were just starting up their scene. There are guitar leads and octave harmonies, bass slides and fillers, and upbeat drumming to fill these twelve tracks with memorable and likable parts.
A general good time for the whole family. I mean that too. My past middle age parents both dig this band when I play them around the house. There's an accessibility under the initial aggression. I think Paffi labeled it as "abrasive pop" in an interview with an ex-classmate of his from college. Bear vs. Shark's instruments often rock in either soft modal ways, or in straight forward pentatonic ways, both of which give them modern take on classic styles. The songs are verse chorus verse, etc. but there's something fresh in this combination few bands can pull off. It's one of the reasons At the Drive-In were such a success. They presented punk in a way few had heard it before; infused it with new life. That's what Bear vs. Shark does. They rip a little from At the Drive-In, Fugazi, Hot Water Music, Braid, and others but come out as something excitingly new, because they know where to accept what's tried and true, and they know when to add their own flourishes.
Top tracks: Ma Jolie, Busses/No Busses, Kylie, Bloodgiver