Review Summary: "Clash Battle Guilt Pride" is an excellent output and progression for Polar Bear Club, though progression might not be the right word.
Progression and change is always and somewhat a double edged blade. As a band you will be cursed if you do not change or progress enough. Dare to change more than people like, and you're cursed because of, well, change. Best examples are Rise Against
for the latter category, but in a way Polar Bear Club had their fair share of hate for their progression as well. You could always spot the Hot Water Music influence, but while their debut "Sometimes Things Just Disappear" still wore it's hardcore roots on it's sleeve, "Chasing Hamburg" went for a more melodic edge that not everyone felt comfortable with. The newest output "Clash Battle Guilt Pride" takes this trend to an even more refined level.
Opener 'Pawner' displays in a straight forward way what can be expected from new Polar Bear Club: melancholic to introspective tones are even more present than on previous outings, while still packing a punch. Truest to old form is the gang vocal driven 'Killin' it', while especially the lyrics of 'I'll never leave New York' and '3/4 Tango' show Jimmy Stadts more personal touch in writing the words to the songs. While the guitars still display awesome sense for melodic arrangements, and the rhythm section drives forward as always, the vocals are the most advanced and developed since "Chasing Hamburg". Stadt goes from soothing clean to raspy harsh with ease and gives many of the songs their own dynamic through his vocal performance.
The album is a strong and solid endeavor, and if the record has any problems at all they are called 'Screams In Caves' and 'My Best Days'. Not because they are in any way bad, absolutely the opposite. Both are catchy and strong anthems with strong melodies. To an extend they are a bit too catchy for the albums own good though, for one as both are almost next to each other, and that amongst the first part of the album. The rest is not really bad and far off behind, still both songs will probably end up as pinnacles for many on the first spins, making the rest seem a bit bland and weak in comparison. How much this will impact the long term and lasting value of the record time will tell, but this reviewer would not be surprised if in the end "Clash Battle Guilt Pride" would go down as one of Polar Bear Club's strongest outputs to date and a clear focal point in their developing discography.
To sum it up: Melody seems to be the clear goal in songwriting for Polar Bear Club these days, bringing catchiness in it's wake. That is not necessary a bad thing, as anthemic songs like 'Screams In Caves' and 'My Best Days'. Overall the album is a strong crowd pleaser so to say, though most of the album has to work a bit to get out of the long shadow of the major anthems hitting you early on in the first fourth of the track list.
Still, overall the album can aim for a solid 4/5