Perhaps the only thing trickier than standing out in Brooklyn’s oversaturated alternative music scene is not standing out so far as to just be a gimmick. Chillwave artists are still trying to make theirs a genre, not just experimental DJ-ing; noise-rock musicians seem to think that standing out for just being noise is enough. Meanwhile, there’s a million-and-one garage-rock & party-punks out there in the borough. Which is what makes Bear Hands and their full-length debut, Burning Bush Supper Club, so nice: not run-of-the-mill, but also not a gimmick, the band & the record stand out just the right amount.
For those used to Bear Hands’ more punk-rock live show & debut Golden EP, Burning opener “Crime Pays” is a bit of a curveball, some interesting sly ‘tronica, and that’s an avenue which the band exploits numerous times on the album – but that’s not all they do. The sly percussion of single “What a Drag” contrasts with the slightly distant percussion of “Tablasaurus”, “Julien”, and “Wicksey Boxing” – and that’s just the percussion. The band can go dark and pressing in the ominous “Belongings”, but the press is rocking with the more in-your-face “Blood and Treasure” (formerly “Buried Treasure”). And the whole thing ends on the higher and softer “Tall Trees”.
Occasionally, the underpinnings escape Bear Hands, such as the not-so-special slow and distant “Camel Convention”, or the middling between styles “High Society”. But more frequently it all adds up to something more, such as the complexity to “What a Drag” or the mix of louder rock & distant percussion to “Can’t Stick Em”. The debut full-length has been a long time coming, but Bear Hands didn’t waste that time – Burning Bush Supper Club doesn’t feel like the Bear Hands debut that fans of their might have been expecting a year or two ago.
Bear Hands have always been a little hard to pigeonhole – too artistic & experimental for the punks, but to rocking for the artistes. But ever since Mission of Burma (QRO live review) had the term ‘art-punk’ coined about them back in the late seventies/early eighties, that hasn’t been a bad place to be, often more rewarding than on either side of the divide. And maybe that’s how Bear Hands stands out most significantly in today’s Brooklyn indie scene – on quality.
MP3 Stream: “Can’t Stick ‘Em”