GRIZZLY BEAR – Veckatimest (Warp)

I have been reading a lot a bout Grizzly Bear recently – enough to encourage to me sample their work, and so I tried their latest album to see what the fuss was all about. ‘Southern Point’ is a weird mixture of jazzy chords and prog rock tempo changes, and sounds like three of four songs all thrown together to see what sticks. Certainly not one to try and hum after you have listened to it. ‘Two Weeks’ has massed Beach Boys harmonies and an insistent piano riff holding it together, but despite the pleasant melody it just doesn’t seem to gel. ‘All We Ask’ reins in the wackiness and emerges much better for it, with the band turning in a good performance on a reasonably straight-forward rock song. ‘Fine For Now’ also plays it straight, and does feature some excellent playing from the band, veering off into some high energy soloing. ‘Cheerleader’ shows that the band can produce a great song if they want to, with it’s yearning vocal, harmony backing, and soulful rhythm, but it tends to be the exception rather than the rule. ‘Dora’, ‘Ready And Able’, and ‘About Face’ all slide by without making much impact at all, but at least ‘While You Wait For The Others’ has a bit of sparkle, and ‘I Live With You’ regains the energy of the first few tracks. ‘Foreground’ almost redeems things with a truly heartfelt ballad, movingly sung over an ethereal backing, but it is all too little too late. Grizzly Bear are often lumped together with bands such as Animal Collective and Fleet Foxes, and while I can hear why they could be compared to AC – with the experimentation and willingness to try unusual song structures – with the exception of ‘Ready, Able’ I can’t really hear the link with Fleet Foxes at all. If there had been more of a similarity then perhaps I would have enjoyed this album more, but as it is it is just too unfocussed for me, and I am afraid that the best that I can do is to damn it with faint praise and say that it is ‘OK’.

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