Review Summary: PEARS’ eponymous third album is the closest yet the band has come to translating their magnificent live experience to the studio.
The first time I encountered PEARS was their live set at Wrecking Ball 2016, a now-defunct alternative music festival in Atlanta, and dear Lord, was that the perfect introduction to the band. PEARS put on a mesmerizingly spirited, high-octane performance. Lead vocalist Zach Quinn bounced and crawled around the stage (and occasionally the audience) like a feral goblin possessed by the very songs he performed. The band made a point of showcasing a sardonic sense of humor, whether by punctuating lyrics with a sarcastic pantomime or by opening their set with a recording of the goddamn Family Matters
theme. In my mind, this live energy is the essence of PEARS--much more so than any of their recorded songs, which have been consistently good but fallen short of capturing the same experience.
, the band's eponymous third album, doesn't quite capture that experience either, but it comes surprisingly and satisfyingly close. The production strikes a brilliant balance between crisp guitars and acerbic vocals, resulting in a sound that’s equally suited to fantastically frenetic bursts of hardcore like "Sympathy Cone” and to anthemic choruses like the one in “Daughter.” Standout track “Comfortably Dumb” even manages to do both at once, beginning with an aggressive hardcore verse and then switching to a rollicking melodic chorus, and the transition happens seamlessly. PEARS
is such a varied album that there's very little punk territory that it doesn't breach, from Dangers-esque hardcore to dirty pop punk a la PUP, but PEARS pull it all off with conviction and aplomb.
PEARS' sardonic bite is on full display, with Quinn declaring, "I am a king but I sleep in a twin" and spitting ironic interpolations of "Love Shack" and "Comfortably Numb." The best display of their wit is "Dial Up," which recontextualizes multiple shallow 90s pop one-hit wonders into a self-deprecating punk anthem. These moments are exactly the kind of fun that strikes at the essence of PEARS, but as much as the band is eager to indulge their mirthful side, they've also matured as songwriters. The vocal interplay on the chorus of "Killing Me" and the alt rock guitars on the bridge of "Rich to Rags" prove that they can even be emotionally affecting at times.
The definitive PEARS experience is still one of their magnificent live shows, and I have no doubt that the songs on PEARS
will be an absolute blast in that environment. But for those who don't have the opportunity to witness PEARS in their element, PEARS
is a wonderful substitute: manic, affective, and downright fun, like any PEARS experience should be.