'Post Hardcore' alt rock from New York

Polar Bears. They may look cute and cuddly, but they come with teeth and claws. So quite an appropriate moniker for this newly signed New York band. ‘Sometimes Things Just Disappear’ is the band’s 2008 debut on the Red Leader album, even though they have now signed with the prestigious Bridge Nine records for rumoured new material for 2009.

You’ve got to worry about a band that writes a song called ‘Eat Dinner, Bury the Dog, and Run’. It’s an interesting choice for opening song, dealing with bleak, cold everyday existence. The lyrics are strangely at odds with the music, but as the album progresses the vocals and music settle into their growled groove. It’s almost a concept album, the songs moving on from loneliness to driving from driving to arriving home across the first three tracks. ‘The Hollow Place’ starts to move towards more traditional alternative sounds, and ‘The Bug Parade’ is the best track yet, wearing its angst on its sleeve.

The label ‘Post Hardcore’ is a good one, their sound is difficult to define. Imagine the radio-friendly sounds of bands like My Chemical Romance, but with added bite and gravel. It falls somewhere on the edges of metal and alternative indie. The lyrics are streams of consciousness sometimes, like on ‘Burned Out In A Jar’, not making much sense. And at others they fall into the ‘storytelling’ category, like in the melodic ‘Tried’ and ‘Our Ballads’, an ironic look at the possibility that their music alienates girls unintentionally. It’s an interesting thought, because Polar Bear Club obviously didn’t take the criticism they sing about to heart, because there isn’t a break in the relentless melodies for a single ballad until the very end. ‘Convinced I’m Wrong’ has an acoustic first verse that showcases the simple guitar melodies they should be playing up a bit more instead of always having the vocals to the fore. Then it breaks into power ballad territory and the sound builds into the best sonic burst on the album. The songwriting is simpler, but the whole package of sound just steps up a level.

Thinking about it, this is probably the least divisive record around. Polar Bear Club already have a staunch group of supporters, and are very likely to gain some more during their latest tour, but it won’t break any new ground musically.