Bearsuit – OH:IO

bearsuitohioBearsuit’s songs are high-energy, spastic smash-ups where all the stop signs have been removed.  Male and female vocals easily morph from airy sweetness to raucous shouts to multi-tiered choir harmonies, while instruments run the gamut from guitars to keyboards to horns to flutes to zippy, zapping arcade game noises. 

This sextet from Norwich, England (Cerian Hamer, Lisa Horton, Matt Hutchings, Jan Robertson, Iain Ross, and Richard Squires) are jazzed about something, raring to go, making distorted guitar discord clash colorfully with angelic choir mayhem, yet never devolving into a mess of cacophony (which is a pretty amazing feat!).  The band members are having loads of fun, and, depending upon the listener, it can be an exasperating, exhausting, and/or exhilarating earful.

 Like kids on a trampoline, Bearsuit is boisterous, hyper, and carefree, exuberantly jumping from song to song and different music styles in short order, hopscotching between noise and melody, where the fast pace of the songs threaten to crush the delicacy of the melodies and airy singing.  The band incorporates the shouty bits of Huggy Bear, the twee bits of Belle & Sebastian, the electro-bounce of Bis, and the lo-fi guitars of Comet Gain, with horns and flute thrown in for good measure.  The guy at times sounds like Damon Albarn of Blur and the girl sounds like Amelia Fletcher of Heavenly on the more placid segments, and like Manda Rin of Bis and Niki and Jo of Huggy Bear on the remainder. 

Schoolyard shouting chants open “Jupiter Force (Recruitment Video)” to a mélange of fast drum beat, smooth to fluttery horns, laser-zip noises, static, and distorted guitar, as the guy and gal trade off shouty vocal lines.  Delightful, but brief boy ‘n’ girl melodies pepper “More Soul than Wigan Casino” amid a mad-dash beat, cowbell, horns, and tremors of flute. 

Bearsuit goes orchestral with strings and cymbal crash at the start of the audaciously-titled “Steven F***ing Spielberg”, which then flaunts a rapid drum beat, distorted guitars, woodwind notes, and male and female vocal harmonizing.  “Dinosaur Heart” rips a noise-pop page from Huggy Bear’s diary by alternating aggressive, shouty vocals and sweet, delightful melodies from the girl, with the guy ending up unhinged and yelling his head off.

On “Foxy Boxer” the guy comes on like a despondent Damon Albarn, moping that “I don’t know what’s right. / I don’t know what’s wrong.” while synth notes, snappy hand-claps, a wasp-like guitar line, and faster-paced drums kick in amid added female shouts and “Ooh, oohs”.  “The Love Will Never Find You” is like a Belle & Sebastian track on fast-forward with male and female breathed out sing-talking bolstered by horn lines. 

The members of Bearsuit must have either just gotten out of high school or they remember that time vividly, because “Hark! The Feral Children” features a speedy marching band beat with peppy, cheering vocals that spazz out into go-for-broke fight club shouts which call to mind a demented, Boredoms-like level of lunacy that could only be found at a high school pep rally.

There’s nothing quiet about “Shh Get Out” with its fuzzy arcade game noises, stop-start rhythms, various screamo shouts and yelps, and quasi-spooky “Ooohs” that are overtaken by Boredoms-like female shriek-shouts by the end of the song.  The album then does a 180, with the next track “Mission io must not Fail” adding a tranquil vibe of flute warble, distorted guitar, spacey blips, calmer guy vocals, a chorus with handclaps, and a lovely parting bit of angelic choir vocals that fade away…