(Myspace.com/polarbearclub)Polar Bear Club – Sometimes Things Just Disappear
(www.redleaderrecords.com)Red Leader Records
An album full of “Fist in the air, screaming along at the top of your lungs” emo/post-hardcore.
I approached this review with trepidation, because it already made it to one of our best of 2007 lists. It’s just not good form for a magazine to contradict itself. Thankfully, Polar Bear Club have proved themselves to be just as good as advertised.
Polar Bear Club’s Sometimes Things Just Disappear is a fantastic rock album. We could debate exactly what this is for a long time (Emo? Post-hardcore? Hardcore? Rock? Punk?), but the straight-forward answer is that this is “Fists in the air, screaming along at the top of your lungs” music. There’s no better explanation I can give than that – but seeing as it’s my job to illuminate that phrase for the next 200 words, I’ll continue.
Polar Bear Club is made up of a bunch of vets (ex-Achilles, ex-Marathon, ex-Spark Lights the Friction) and it shows. These guys know their way around a riff, they know how to mess with tempo for best effect, and they know how to write great songs. This maturity is shown by the fact that the first 42 seconds of the album is a mellow instrumental (don’t worry, the ‘ripping faces off’ bit crunches in right after). It’s easily apparent that they are holding nothing back.
Their lyrics provide an unexpected bonus. There are some embarrassingly honest lyrics (“Damn it all, I am just sad” from “Burned Out in a Jar”), but there are also several songs that have vividly described scenes and nearly lucid detail. “The Bug Parade” describes the despair the author feels as his girlfriend and her mom talk in the kitchen about the narrator. The music takes a backseat to the vocals, letting the vocals develop the song instead of the charging guitars. The music is still great – but they know that the lyrics are the winner here, and they let them show.
The second moment of intense clarity is the standout track “Our Ballads.” The song is social commentary, scene commentary and an amazing song wrapped into one. It’s about a neighbor/lawyer that criticizes the band for “alienating girls from boys” with their music. They spend a third of the song explaining the man, a third of the song explaining the emotive response from the author, and the final third proclaiming a taunting call: “So you’re saying that a female only listens to ballads and love songs? The girls that I know wouldn’t think so, but according to you our songs should separate all the girls from the boys,” the lead singer (and, sarcastically, a group of male backup yelling) assert viciously at the end of the song.
On top of being a great set of lyrics, the music matches it perfectly. Other standout tracks include the straightforward and intensely melodic “Heart Attack at Thirty,” and the poignant yet still powerful punk charge of “Hollow Place.”
If I’ve said charging and rocking a bunch of times, that’s because those words best describe Polar Bear Club. It’s hard to describe why songs this good are this good. I can take them apart and explain it on a musical level, but that would be cutting out the passion and the connection between the band members. There’s something here that not many bands have. I hope that the people in the band like each other, because if they do, this band should have a long, long life. They’ve got the passion for the scene, the self-loathing to keep writing great lyrics, and a seemingly endless supply of hooks to keep it going a while. If you like guys who scream their insecurities and make you want to scream with them, this album is for you.