Solar Bear – Captains of Industry

  • Keith Rosson posted
  • Reviews

Solar Bear

Captains of Industry - Self Released

I have no idea why six-song post-hardcore EPs in cardboard sleeves are so goddamn popular right now, but they seem to make up the bulk of what I’m getting in the mail these days. And following suit with almost everything else in the genre, Solar Bear offers up a well-crafted and well-recorded album that pretty much goes in one ear and out the other.

Taking cues from These Arms Are Snakes or Blood BrothersSolar Bear has has taken the manic intensity of those bands and tempered them with more mid-tempo outings. There are more layers – songs are dense and rich and angled, like Planes Mistaken For Stars or Super Black Market. The downfall is that, all in all, it comes across as more cloying and claustrophobic than anything else.

They manage some momentum in spots, however, and the track “Kafka Roaches” features that dense wall of sound – but it’s shot through with a few fantastic closing verses, a kind of call and response between the vocalist and the guitars. The band has a few moments like that – these brief passages where they let the songs breathe a little – and Captains Of Industry is the better for it. But there’s far too few of them.

I’m sure the band is entirely stoked on what they’re doing and enjoy the music that they play. At the same time, this type of music frequently runs the risk of becoming entirely formulaic:

  • A one-sheet inevitably claiming band will be the next big thing while simultaneously ripping your face off with their complex brutality.
  • Cardboard sleeve with album art featuring odd and (hopefully jarring) juxtaposition in this case, nuclear reactors and wires.
  •  Five or six song EP with one song inevitably being a throwaway track, as it’s mired in effects or is little more than a soundscape. It is also frequently usually compressed and played at a lower level than the rest of the songs so that when it’s done, the next “real” song will come blasting out of the speakers. It’s a lame trick, done under the guise of being an “intro.”
  • The remaining songs are post-hardcore scramblings: dense, well executed, tightly played and impeccably recorded. And nearly interchangeable with a shit-ton of other bands doing the exact same thing, with very little actual velocity to the songs themselves, but many of the tracks sounding like little more than a mishmashing of cool riffs. (Then again, very little post-hardcore stuff has impressed me sinceThe Ladderback, who took this entire genre and playfully threw it on its ass.)
  • Last but not least: wildly inventive song titles, but no lyrics included.

So, yeah. You experience this twenty, fifty, a hundred times and it all becomes a little too familiar. Some kind of monkeywrench needs to be thrown in the gears.

(Still Solar Bear gets points for including a hidden track that is probably an instrumental  cover of some old butt-rock song, in which they make it indubitably clear they can most definitely play guitar solos. Still, it adds an element of playfulness that shows they probably don’t take themselves too seriously.)