Review Summary: An entertaining, exploring math rock release with more hits than misses.
I remember being involved in my first band. I sucked – badly – but that momentary sense of endless possibility and that feeling of making
something has proved decidedly difficult to replicate. With a little more ability (a lot more, perhaps) and a knowledge of what math rock was
, it may have been a good fit for my middling teenage self; its experimental tendencies certainly harbour the right blend of energy and translucent parameters for youthful enthusiasm to build upon. As such, there’s something rather pleasant about the none-too-serious way Eatenbybears go about their business on debut album Teeth
. Particularly, gleeful abandon is applied to the lyrical end – want to write an entire song around the sentence ‘smile while you still have teeth?’ Sure! How about a singalong nonsense anthem concerning fictional solar angles? Why not? What about forgoing lyrics altogether, and simply scat ‘la’ sounds instead? Sounds good!
Still, this somewhat belies the Belfast quartet’s very real musical ability. ‘Pythagoraphobia’, an early highlight, blends pizzicato strings and heavily delayed guitars with clever structuring, giving the opener a misleadingly conventional feel through all the meter trickery. Lynchpin tracks ‘Vanderhoof’ and ‘Pre Molar’ both make excellent usage of violin, with polarised approaches; the former’s Celtic flavour imbues the track with an energy later cemented by its lively vocal performance, while the latter forms a rare peaceful moment, as conversational ambience is slowly consumed by a relaxing violin melody, itself complemented by jazzy notes. Indeed, Eatenbybears rarely bog down on one style for too long – like an excitable child they try a bit of everything, the notion of stability far down on their collective radar.
Their carefree attitude does come with certain drawbacks, however. ‘Malkovich’s bizarre combination of bright indie rock, calypso and occasional Beach Boys-like harmonising is certainly different but, frankly, a little irritating, something which closer ‘Spite Houses’ finds itself in grave danger of repeating during its first minute-and-a-half. Perhaps more frustratingly than owt else, the little teaser of math-infused post-punk which we get treated to on ‘Incisor’ is nothing more than that – a 20 second nugget of potential waved under our noses, only to be snatched away from us within moments.
A largely wonderful amalgam of focussed songwriting and fervent pratting around, Eatenbybears’ debut, if nothing else, strikes the balance between fun, attitude and technicality with reasonable aplomb. ‘Pythagoraphobia’, ‘Pre Molar' and ‘Vanderhoof’ are all stellar forays, and while ‘Malkovich’ is a definite swing-and-a-miss, testing unfamiliar ground is all part-and-parcel of being young and curious - ultimately what one takes from Teeth
. Ultimately, where the Northern Irish group get it right, they get it very, very right.