Review Summary: Paper thin
Polar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just Disappear
When Polar Bear Club released their debut EP, The Redder, the Better, it felt like a giant log drop into the blogosphere. Critics and fans (though the difference between the two are debatable with regard to underground punk artists) alike rallied around the pop punk melodies, the energetic songwriting, and the gruff vocals. This excitement is not a bad thing at all, but it just feels like too many people are looking for the next Hot Water Music (though HWM may be the new HWM as they are already reuniting). Polar Bear Club carried the torch well, but they hadn't been tested by a true full length LP, which can be the making or unmaking of any small and earnest punk artist.
Sometimes Things Just Disappear is their submission to the punk world for official review. The short of it is that this album is not as good as their EP, and will go down as underwhelming despite not having any salient flaws. I really mean that. I can't find any egregious errors throughout this album. At least when looking critically at an Avenged Sevenfold album, there's a whole lot to point out. The story here is that Sometimes Things Just Disappear is a good album with good songs with good verses, chorus, and bridges with good instrumental playing and good lyrics, but ultimately everything feels flat.
I attribute this failure to the legacy of Hot Water Music. Polar Bear Club are greatly indebted to Hot Water Music for blending meat and potatoes rock, with a punk mentality, pop punk hooks, and post-hardcore riffing. Their sound is defined by the aforementioned genre splicings and is a successful merging of those ideas. The guitar riffs are sufficiently angular but also catchy. The rhythm section is just off of center, providing a little bit of intrigue along with the punk galloping. The vocals are a mix of gruff and melodious, with a mix of shouting and singing. However, these songs don't have the visceral impact and x factor of a lot of Hot Water Music tracks. "Tried" sounds like paper thin version of HWM's "Paper Thin" without the swinging choruses. A lot of the songs on this album are oddly slow too. Polar Bear Club don't mind cruising in a sallow 6/8 until a song drags. Even if the groove is thick and the riffs are fun, the song can still get bogged down.
However, just looking at Sometimes Things Just Disappear as a weak rendition of HWM's Greatest Hits, ignores the better moments on the album. "Bug Parade" works as a slow burner because of the interplay between the bass and the drums on the verses and the above par gruff vocals of the chorus. "Our Ballads" is a rollicking good time and actually paces itself well, building up to an emphatic ending, gang vocals and all. This album sounds almost as if it could have been written by Set Your Goals on a good day, or Bouncing Souls trying really hard to write inventive parts on a bad day. Even the goofy "Heart Attack at Thirty" is imbued with a weird Bad Religion vibe with the sustained full minor bar chords.
Ultimately, this album isn't bad, but it's far from being great. Polar Bear Club would do well to just listen to the song "Resent and Resistance" from their debut EP. That track perfectly blended a huge, slow riff with impassioned vocals, and fun guitar riffs. Also, none of those weak clean voice vocals moonlit as lead vocals. They went Chuck Ragan all the way on that one. The content on Sometimes Things Just Disappear feels like a prolix doppelganger of "Resent and Resistance."