Grizzly Bear: Shields (Warp/Border)

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Grizzly Bear: A Simple Answer
Grizzly Bear: Shields (Warp/Border)

Right now I'm reading I Hate New Music; The Classic Rock Manifesto. And it's not the best preparation for this new album by Grizzly Bear.

Author Dave Thompson's credo is simple: "You look at the Cult and you see the Doors. You look at the Black Crowes but you see the Faces . . ."

Yes, he's a grumpy old man arguing (in a very funny way) that classic rock of the most maligned kind by try-hard hip older critics these days (Led Zepp, Bob Seger, Cream etc) actually meant something to people in a way bands like Grand Funk Railroad never did or could, even though the mighty Funk sold out stadiums and had huge selling albums.

"As Ritchie Blackmore once pointed out, no matter how many times he toured America, and how many fans he talked to, he had yet to meet anyone who claimed to be a Grand Funk Railroad fan".

Thompson goes further of course to point out just how much copyist, unoriginal and flat out boring stuff is being made these days (not like the old days?) and says once bands were the vehicle that drove music into your heart. And it stayed there.

Well, this album by Grizzly Bear is to these ears a limp, if critically acclaimed, effort which attempts a profound mix'n'match of sunny pop harmonics, a touch of guitar jangle, suggestions of wig-out chaos (but not too far, we've got school tomorrow kiddies) and bits of choirboy folk coupled to cute references towards light psychedelia.

It is an unaffecting mishmash -- unlike the cleverness of Alt-J -- which tells me Grizzly Bear are not a band here which will drive this music into my heart.

It sounds studied and arch, pulls back when it should just go for whatever is the higher plane and far too often sounds wimpy and anemic.

Sure it has its moments, A Simple Answer is gently uplifting . . . but my immediate thought is it might have been a McCartney-Harrison composition around the White Album era. Gun-Shy is nice too, a bit like Lennon at his most relaxed around Mind Games or Walls and Bridges.

Do I like these because they are referenced in the familiar? I dislike other bits for exactly that reason.

And there's a lot of sensitivity on display here but mostly it resolves into nothing.

Grizzly Bear have delivered some intermittent excellence in the past (the much recommended Veckatimest, which was also full of musical references) but this just feels like a new version of Teflon where nothing sticks. Except the glorious seven minute closer Sun in Your Eyes. Have a listen to that and see if you can avoid saying "McCartney".

Maybe it has been acclaimed because it seems post-modern? 

Righto, back to that curmudgeon Mr Thompson who is about to ask, "Why listen to Of Montreal when you could be playing the Mamas and the Papas? Why bother with Portishead when you still have all those John Barry soundtracks to listen to?"

And Devendra Banhart when you've already had Donovan, Marc Bolan and the Incredible String Band

Okay, he's a grump. But he could just be onto something.

For an old guy.

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