The 2 Bears - Be Strong
Mon 19th Mar, 2012 Music Reviewsin
When Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard formed side-project The 2 Bears with Raf Rundell around 2009, little would he have expected their output to be ridiculously described as ‘pop-hip-house’ or ‘rave-garage’. Listen to The 2 Bears’ debut album Be Strong a few times over, however, and you can – to a certain extent – understand how listeners might have dreamed up such descriptions of their sound. For the most part, uplifting house is the order of the day here, but delve a little deeper on Be Strong and you’re likely be charmed by an array of downtempo electronica, hip-hop and disco influences, as well as leftfield and ever-so-slightly pop-tinged sounds, contributing to a pretty slick package overall.
Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, obviously knew he was onto something when he signed the duo’s first two EPs to his Southern Fried label in 2010. The Follow the Bear and the Curious Nature EPs both showed different, albeit brilliant, sides to the duo’s sound. The former featured the album’s title track, complete with its tough four-to-the-floor beat, Rundell’s baritone roll call of musical luminaries and Goddard’s vocal evoking memories of big – and brilliant – nights out in the UK capital. The latter, meanwhile, featured Church, which features on Be Strong as the album closer. Essentially a love song, Church sees Goddard’s cockney accent ooze about his other half while subtle Caribbean and tribalesque drums, hand claps and a humming church organ roll through. It’s got a different feel to the title track, but, like much of the album, there’s that overt optimism to it that sucks you in.
You can see how, as a result of this positive vibe, so many tracks on Be Strong will work so well in clubs as hands-in-the-air, head-in-hands moments. Lines like “reach out, get a hold of somebody, there won’t be a problem if you just move your body” from Take a Look Around sum up the general mood. The dancefloor-aimed and tongue-in-cheek Bear Hug takes this positivity one step further, framing the dancefloor as a place of brother and sisterhood as opposed to the prelude scene to random sexual encounters. Current single Work, meanwhile, is an ode to the duo’s love of music – making it, listening to it, and generally immersing themselves in it. Warm and Easy sees the duo dreamily take us through a more down-tempo landscape where “war is ugly” and “love is lovely”. It’s hard not to get swept up in it all.
The influence of Hot Chip who, with Goddard, championed such a quirky indie-dance sound is hard to ignore. But saying that takes nothing away from Rundell, whose predominantly spoken-word, low octave spits work brilliantly with Goddard’s more melodic vocals and lend a real likeability to The 2 Bears. Throw in various samples and effects, like those used on the darker Increase Your Faith (one of the few instrumental tracks on the album) and the result is a weird continuity between tracks that adds to the flow.
You can’t help but feel glad that these 2 Bears have ventured out of the woods. What’s on offer is eminently enjoyable: feel good music, expertly produced by two likeable British chaps who don’t take themselves too seriously. While it’s not quite ‘pop-hip-house’ or ‘rave garage’, there are sufficient pop access points throughout that make it an accessible, and altogether fun, release. Be sure to bear witness to Be Strong.
Be Strong is out now on Southern Fried Records.