Monday, March 12, 2012

The Bears - The Bears

Out of nowhere in the late 80’s came a group of power pop affectionatos who released a gem of such quality that the only story befitting of such an achievement is one of another tale of criminal oversight and record company troubles.

That group was the Bears, a band most famous for one of the members-Adrian Belew-who cut his guitar neck with such luminaries as Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and even a brief stint in the Talking Heads’ touring band.

The label was the Primitive Man Recording Company (better known by its clever acronym P.M.R.C.), a small label with impeccable chops and a deal with (then) power house indie I.R.S. records. Unfortunately, the name and distribution deal weren’t enough to keep the label afloat for any significant amount of time, rendering The Bears’ output as helplessly out of print and hopelessly expensive to anyone wanting to discover the band’s impressive take on smartly executed power pop.

The Bears also had an ace or two up their sleeve that came from the ashes of Cincinnati favorites The Raisins. Their history was based firmly in that power pop ear candy, but when success eluded them, they took the only step they could-disbanding into obscurity-until Belew rang them up as a fellow fan and musician, imploring them to give it another go with him in the line-up.

An impressive debut came from that great decision, only to be followed by a relatively dumb one: having an illustrator from Mad magazine come up with the art work to that decent record.

With a cover that bad it’s no wonder that most record buyers shied away from the product, leaving behind one of the best power pop records of that decade to collect dust and reach the cutout bins. And when those bins got empty, the fortunate ones still holding a copy gouged the price so high that The Bears became one of those records too expensive for most to appreciate.

Had they held on to a decently priced copy, they would have found the Bears fully capable in bringing some new quirks and tones to an admittedly restrictive genre.

Within the opener, “None Of The Above,” Belew brings his zoo animal guitars into the mix for an appreciation to the common man,.

By the second tune, The Bears bring an old Raisins tune out of retirement, “Fear Is Never Boring,” on the sheer fact that it’s so tightly wound with indulgent goodness it simply couldn’t be left in the closet as another forgotten entry.

The one/two punch of the album’s opening sequence makes the rest of the material hard to stand up to it, but The Bears never falls below a point of above average songs with a complete appreciation of how much of a treasure it came to be the moment it became such a treasure hunt to find.

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