EP Review: Bear Chest – My Bones
Sheffield Swagger & Kodiak-sized Riffs
Somewhat comparable to the way in which a certain band from Lowestoft popularised the almighty rock riff a decade before, the emergence and mainstream acceptance of Royal Blood in 2014 – along with their enormous reliance on bass-heavy riffs, fleshy grooves and explosive (yet accessible) choruses – once again, though not quite so flamboyantly, made our genre cool. It’s that sense of rock ‘n’ roll style and unapologetic swagger that Sheffield alt-rock three-piece Bear Chest possess in abundance. ‘Raucous’ and ‘beefy’, the band declare of their music on Facebook – and the jagged six-string textures and full-bodied nature of their debut EP, My Bones, certainly makes it difficult to disagree with such a self-assessment. Whether or not Bear Chest were directly influenced by recent movements in rock, you’d have to ask them yourselves; but there are moments that appear to nod towards Brighton’s chart-bothering Royal Blood here.
The opener, Leech, growls and writhes in a reptilian manner suggestive of QOTSA’s heyday. While the bass resonates and rumbles along faithfully, Miles Broadbent’s raspy vocals stream freely between verse and chorus: a combination of coarse tones and unimpeded vocal phrases that resembles the work of the now late Scott Weiland.
The collective spatial awareness on Delve Deep is nothing short of compelling, with that laden chorus riff afforded all the time and space it needs to respire menacingly. With heavily drop tuned strings flapping around frenetically, Broadbent’s bristly fretwork is reminiscent of Californian stoner-rockers Fu Manchu. While these songs are generally succinct, Bear Chest’s ability to express themselves within the confines of a three-minute-long offering is clearly one of their most valuable strengths. And it’s a skill not to be scorned if your band has any aspirations of major airplay.
But as potent as most of this EP is, it does fall short of being the perfect debut release. Absorbing a vast platter of music, and determining an artistic direction based on the findings that affect us the most, are both inescapable processes for any band. Still, when a band opts to wear too much of a particular influence on their collective sleeves, they do so at the risk of becoming a ‘genre band’, where style takes precedent over substance. Devils Tongue is a case-in-point: the EP’s first juncture where you feel proceedings – the grungey-ska verses especially – have become slightly pedestrian, and Broadbent starts to sound a bit like that guy from Wolfmother.
Though Devils Tongue is partly redeemed by some fierce lead breaks towards the song’s end, Cut You Loose suffers from similar ailments, in that we soon grow wise of the band’s mid-tempo approach, and the overused formula of stripped back verses and rowdy choruses. Nevertheless, in a similar fashion to Cut You Loose’s predecessor, the band up the ante during the song’s latter stages with some feral guitar work and pulsating rhythms, courtesy of drummer Sam Bywater.
There is no such malaise or lack of endeavour once we reach the EP’s finale, the rugged powerhouse that is Break You. The bluesy melodies early on prepare our senses perfectly for the doomy onslaught of manic, swirling riffs soon to come crashing through the speakers. If there’s one Sheffield-made rock tour de force you lose your shit to this year, it has to be this.
My Bones is, without a doubt, a powerful, stylish statement of intent, and a consummate way in which to unleash Bear Chest’s first set of songs upon the world. What the band might lack in pure originality, they make up for with bullish endeavour and fine performances across the board. Further innovation and experimentation would surely see this three-piece recognised on a national scale.
If you’re a Chinese zodiac enthusiast, then you will know that 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. But there is absolutely no reason why Bear Chest can’t push on and become one of Sheffield’s finest rock outfits – making 2016 the Year of the Bear.