Urban Safari
Bear Left Records

You want to know what made the triumvirate of Robert Smith (The Cure), Morrissey (The Smiths) and Frank Zappa so cool? They were all credible in their own innocuous, trademarked ways, yet those gentlemen still had the vision and foresight to keep things listenable, tangible, and raucous. Yeah, Robert and Moz moped and Zappa toked, but you were able to find infectious energy in the work of all three, much to the enjoyment of the (relative) masses. And that’s kinda where I stand with Bear Left, featuring none other than McGill Law student Howie Kislowicz and his two McGill alumni compatriots, Matt Wiviott and Shai Korman.

If you were lucky enough to catch this band live at a sold-out Cafe Campus on February 8, you know exactly the type of up-beat sonic splendour Bear Left puts forth with abandoned recklessness. Encapsulating the spirit of a hypothetical neo-jam band movement (i.e., taking cues from Phish yet making the sound all its own), Bear Left comes off just as fun-time and exuberant on record as in concert.

There’s a certain charming neuroticism to the title track and “Donnie Brasco” (“I got this feeling that things wouldn’t work out/When she said to fuck off and get a haircut”), yet Bear Left is also able to convey depleted and despondent songs at a moment’s notice. Take, for example, “Dear” which recalls the best of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, while “Marla Ann” is a moving tribute to a victim of the Hebrew University terrorist attack in Israel. I think David Byrne (Talking Heads) will be proud when he eventually hears this band’s work. Byrne is a forward-thinking guy who understands post-modern inconsequentialism: it’s like, you don’t have to do it, but it’ll be damn fun anyway.

–David Perri