In mid-2007, a small company called Freedom in Exile put out Bear Hands’ Golden EP, making it the first release of a band that had formed only a year prior. But when the Brooklyn post-punk quartet originally hit the studio to lay down the EP, they never intended to publicly release its fruits. Instead, they were demo tracks—works in progress recorded without overdubs, and pending future modification. Once the band took a manager who was motivated enough to make the work public, Golden turned into an invigorated if unrefined document of Bear Hands’ early days. “I screwed up guitar parts left and right on that. Things were out of tune [and] off-time,” recalls guitarist and percussionist Ted Feldman. “We definitely play [those songs] differently now.”
Despite having the momentum of the EP and subsequent tours that honed their stage show, it took Bear Hands’ debut album, Burning Bush Supper Club, three years to see daylight. (Cantora Records issued it earlier this month.) Several happenings produced the excessive, uncomfortable wait; Feldman, for one, spent the interim wrapping up a stint as a film student at Wesleyan University and creating a 13-minute dark musical comedy for a thesis. “It’s a little frustrating to be sitting on these songs that were basically ready for release for so long. We finished recording over six months ago,” he says. “Hopefully, sitting on it for that long didn’t drive too many people away.”
Compared to the three days allotted to recording Golden EP, constructing Burning Bush took some 30 days spread over about five months. The result is a much slicker affair, demonstrating both a time-bred tightness and a newfound interest in electronica. It’s an impressive LP, underpinned by mellifluous textures, punchy dance beats and a genuine sense of variety between tracks—the sassy keyboard jam “Crime Pays” was made for partying, “Julien” strikes a contemplative middle ground, and “Wicksey Boxing” is a moody downer. “The chord changes and song structures aren’t incredibly unique to each song, but we try to make the textures and general vibe its own,” says Feldman.
The skillful vocals also deserve a shout-out: Dylan Rau uses a confident falsetto to assert, “Everyone knows that crime pays/ and everybody does it/ Everyone knows that crime pays/ and everybody loves it” on “Crime Pays” while pulling off a more serious, near-sullen croon for the chorus of “What a Drag” (“I’m dreaming of your goddamn long nails”).
In contrast to the long dry spell Bear Hands just broke, Feldman reports that they’re already starting to develop their second full-length, which makes one wonder if the smarter, more experienced bunch is still cool with Golden EP sitting out there. Even with those mistakes, the guitarist is proud of it. “It captured a moment in our time. It was the four of us in a room playing tunes we’d been playing for a couple of months,” he says. “I’m glad we have those recordings as the way they are. I wouldn’t go back and change it.”
741 S. 330 West
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 7 p.m.
$8 adv./$10 day of show