Golden Bear, Everest EP

Golden Bear, Everest EP

If indie-rock could talk and if you got it drunk and just let it talk for a few hours, at that point, in the twilight of conversation, when neither party is really listening any more, but more helping each other to fill the void of silence, you would hear something like Golden Bear’s Everest EP.

Yes, there are a lot of bands out there all doing different things to make themselves an original act. Yes, it is getting harder for bands to make noteworthy noise while avoiding comparisons and synonymy. As Golden Bear themselves muse in the first line of “All the Stars”: “Back when we were young / Before it seems like all the songs were sung”. So it’s not a sentiment that has escaped the band; they’re aware of the challenge of being up to indie snuff these days. Five years ago, an EP like Everest would have been something like a breath of fresh air, an improvement, perhaps even an indication of the future — but today, our expectations are elevated.

So now, when you hear the title track from the EP, “Everest,” what should sound like a pop-influenced take on Pavement-style garage becomes more of an annotation on what it means to sounds like an indie-rock band in 2009. Not to say that that’s so terrible — they’re still catchy for the most part; the shimmering, strummy guitars sound great underneath the rumble of drums and bass, and the vocals aren’t great but they’re doing the job in their own, idiosyncratic way. And where the genteel balladry of “Night Lights” should sound like Golden Bear showing us their insecurities and their own band-personal battle with the idea of one day getting older, it sounds like this band’s song about youthful indulgence and rebellion (“We are children of a darker time / You hear us shout”), as if there weren’t already enough of those.

Lead singer Chris Gregory’s voice remains decidedly un-dynamic throughout much of Everest, almost like a reluctant Frank Black, and where a band might lack in a refined vocalist, they can sometimes use it to their advantage. David Byrne once said that, “it’s harder to believe what someone is saying if they have a great voice” (or something to that effect), and I stand by that sentiment. But where the vocals lack, the band must make up in some form or fashion, and Golden Bear, unfortunately, seems content to play as a backing band noodling in indie pastiche.

There are bright moments that show promise for Golden Bear. For instance, the bouncy R&B on “Future Blues” catches the ear quite nicely; however, the lyrics in the chorus (staggered over staccato downbeats) aren’t obscure enough to be profound and not nuanced enough to offer insight. “The future blues haven’t gotten me / and the present hasn’t sucked out my soul / While the past is sure to forget me / it’s the future that concerns me the most,” comes off a wordy observation sandwiched between the rhythm-and-bluesy verses. “All the Stars,” if not for its lyrics rife with nostalgic cliché, is perhaps a keeper. The finger-picky riffing cuts a neat line somewhere between punk-pop and the influence of bluegrass music and sounds eye-poppingly fresh.

What Golden Bear offers to the uniqueness and nuance-hungry listeners of indie-rock at this point is that they have the potential to be a very relevant and original addition to the scene. Everest, however, only offers a few sniffs here and there to their real potential. It’s now our job as music consumers to keep this band in the back of our minds and see what the future truly holds for Golden Bear — it’s what concerns them the most. As the ether of Golden Bear’s debut EP has settled upon the indie-rock cutting floor, we now wait to see what will rise from it.

BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Monday, May 24th, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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