There is just something about Australian rock. Whether it's the wide-open geography, the big skies, or the relative isolation, that continent seems to possess the perfect equilibrium for inspiration. The Bear Hunt are a psychedelic garage rock outfit, originally from North Queensland, but since relocated to Brisbane. Their recent album Can't Save You was equally inspired by the isolation of North Queensland, and musical influences like PJ Harvey, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Seeing so many fuzzy garage revisionists mentioned did not prepare me for the clean, sparkling guitar tones of "Ready Or Not", which is more Explosions In The Sky or Johnny Marr then The Sonics. It sounds like the glittering night sky, before suddenly erupting in a nostalgic, romantic windswept ballad, that is simultaneously bittersweet and wildly exciting. Like driving away from your hometown. There is clearly more here than meets the eye. The Bear Hunt are a real band, using their inspirations to construct something wholly unique and personal. The influences are like colored threads, that The Bear Hunt then weave into tapestries of landscapes and personal stories.
Yes, "Angry Country", does bring to mind Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's exquisitie third record, Howl, but instead of a band mimicking another's footsteps and formulas, "Angry Country" reminds us of the geographic similarities of Australia and the American Southwest. Deserts just seem to suggest twanging acoustic guitars, which are then swallowed up by crunching gravelslide guitar riffs and howling backwards feedback. "Angry Country" could be the soundtrack for a lightning storm over the desert, serving as a backdrop to Bec Wilson's tale of hedonism and self-destruction.
Wilson's vocals are far more disaffected then you often hear in garage, stoner or roots-rock. More Siouxsie Sioux than "Suzie Q". It does bring to mind the post-punk snarl of Polly Jean Harvey, or even the isolated incantations of Bardo Pond's Isobel Sollenberger, but it seems that Bec Wilson is using a degraded recording quality to give a removed, distant feeling. It's like she's the person that life is happening to, the narrator, while Lloyd Martin's guitars, Michael Fedrick's bass and Linda Dark's drums are the sounds of life, raging in all cacophany and uncertainty around our ears.
Speaking of guitars, Martin's fretwork is one of The Bear Hunt's secret weapons. His picking is clean, precise, and spacious. He's got a great tone and great technique, playing everything from folk-encrusted acoustic rock to leaden, crushing, pummeling stoner grooves. When he's allowed to unleash, like on "Can't Save You", it's one of the EPs most thrilling moments. The guitar, howling heroically at the sky, which splits and tears, with sheets of rain and the smell of burning ozone. "Can't Save You" shows that garage psychedelia is in good shape, in 2014, and that there are many exciting permutations of sound, yet to be explored.
Maybe I'm just lucky, and have good people to bring the best music to my attention, but if this is a band's debut EP, maybe, as a race, we are approaching enlightenment after all. It boggles the mind for musicians to be this virtuosic at songwriting and playing their instruments at such an early stage. The Bear Hunt show that they are assimilating their influences, rolling around psych, metal, post-punk, vast landscapes, cheap drugs and failed romances in a particle accelerator, to create some superELEMENT, a new mineral, that may cure cancer or produce anti-gravity.
Here's to hoping that Australia keeps producing such satisfying Rock 'n Roll, and here's to hoping that The Bear Hunt live up to the potential established on this EP.
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