Bear In Heaven - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Bear In Heaven - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

The appallingly named Juffage has a clever trick. He plays everything himself. And he does it right there in front of you. He's got one of those loop peddles which have been a godsend for control freaks and friendless musicians, you see, and while we watch and slurp drinks he scampers from drum kit to guitar to synth to mic, setting up a series of post-rock textures and propulsive beats. Unfortunately, he then covers these with some frankly heinous, bellyaching white boy yowling. Juffage is a very good drummer, guitarist etc. He is not a good singer. You can't micromanage everything, Juffage. Just ask Gordon Brown.

It would be quite satisfying to dislike Juffage. For one thing, he seems to radiate smugness about how smart he thinks his process of music making is. To be fair to him, it is smart, but that only makes his self-satisfied grinning between songs worse. However, two things make me warm to him. First, most of the music he makes is bloody good; a great synthesis of Explosions in the Sky and Three Trapped Tigers with plenty of blips and bloops and bursts of static to keep us interested. The second is his end-of-set masterstroke of carrying two stereos playing his looped, distorted vocals to either end of the venue and then playing along. It immediately turns a good gig into something closer to an art installation. Well done, Juffage, you clever boy. Now, stop looking so smug about it.

Bachelorette, who has come to us from New Zealand, is losing her voice. She apologises for this, bless her, and promises that if we see her again we'll get a better gig. To be honest, I wish someone would bung her a maximum strength Strepsil or something, since her mixture of Pet Shop Boys, Saint Etienne and the gentler parts of Brian Eno's Another Green World are undoubtedly very lovely indeed when they don't have what sounds like an abused kitten whining over them. Get well soon, Bachelorette, and come back to Leeds when you do.

Bear in Heaven begin their set with a bowel-churning bass rumble and a skull-pounding beat. This, combined with simply the greatest 70s-style macho man 'tashes you're likely to see this year, signal to all their intention to ROCK. And ROCK they do - if you understand ROCK to mean the unleashing of a distinctive and utterly entrancing combination of prog, proto-metal, Krautrock and the trippier end of chill-wave. Sometimes, as on 'Wholehearted Mess', they sound like early Black Sabbath trying to get their heads round the gonzo rhythms of Can. At other times, most exactly on tonight's rendition of the utterly wonderful 'Lovesick Teenagers', they sound more like Gary Numan fronting Pink Floyd's new chill-wave direction. And bloody awesome it all is too. Live, they're so much heavier than on their slightly wussy-sounding Beast Rest Forth Mouth album. Some of this may be down to the Brudenell's always excellent sound quality. In fact, Bear in Heaven make a point of thanking the sound guy. Tonight, they win on both musical quality and facial topiary. Hopefully, by the time Bear in Heaven return to Leeds, all the wannabe Brooklynites in the crowd will have adopted the bassist's fabulous Mike from Spaced look.

Richard Morris

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