Bearsuit @ Old Blue Last
Old Blue Last. 14aug11.
Time was there were six of these bears, with flutes, horns and all kinds of caper that clattered about like prodigious toddlers high on sugary contraband. They had a disarming tweeness to beckon people towards them, to wriggle under stroking hands like a playful kitten, only to then morph into a beast of pure malevolence, launching the suckerpunch assault of caterwauling chaos.
Now there are five of them and the wind and brass have been replaced with a greater emphasis on synths and while it’s not different per se, it’s certainly not entirely the same. Not that singer and guitarist Iain Ross sees it this way, suggesting by way of introduction here into Foxy Boxer (an atypical ‘oldie’ this evening) that “we’ve only got six songs, it’s all the same formula isn’t it – shout, shout.”
However, if they do only have finite methods, they are clearly keener to play the newer versions born of them than delve into the back catalogue. As if to plant a big new footprint down upon the world of pop, their set is top heavy with material from their latest LP The Phantom Forest with popular singles from their earlier years, such as Drink Ink, Stephen F****** Spielberg and Itsuko Got Married, seemingly put out to pasture.
Amidst Joe Naylor’s frisky drumming and the vocal and instrumental fidget provided by three original members Ross, Jan Robertson and Lisa Horton, Charlene Katuwawala is a fairly low key presence but her gritty bass is vital in underpinning the ever increasing maturity within the Bearsuit sound.
With an electro-pop tune like When Will I Be Queen, so bright you could floodlight a goods yard with it, and in A Train Wreck a glorious song which marries a hymnal harmony with both ripening art-pop and post-punk thrust, it is clear that Bearsuit have added plenty to their toolshed since their salad days.
Thankfully though, we cannot look at the Bears and consider them all grown up as fundamentals of the Melt Banana-esque whizz and skid which dictated the pace of their early tunes are still extant in Princess, You’re A Test and, even more vividly, Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop which top and tail tonight’s set.
While there appears to be less of that well defined cutesy-abandon-leading-to-frenzied-assault element, there is still a roughness around their edges and a sense of requiring to surrender to them; that to not be seen dancing during their sets is to meet with their eye-narrowing displeasure.
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