By Victoria Uren ’17
Rock god and heartthrob Morrissey (of The Smiths) once said that “there [is] nothing more repellent than the synthesizer.” Well, cool, Moz, but I’m going to have to disagree with you there. Local Boston band Bearstronaut (they met at UMass Lowell) has a mostly traditional synth-pop sound that makes me happy;. Nothing repellent here, I’m afraid.
Their tunes have a thorough pop danceability with a twist; lyrics can get floaty and ethereal — think Empire of the Sun-esque falsetto — but Bearstronaut openly claims their status as a band that melts together the classic synth-pop outfit setup — standing on stage with a computer, which can feel, let’s be honest, a little awkward — with a more traditional rock-and-roll configuration. Live, they have more of a full band presence; think traditional four-piece rocker setup but with more keyboards. Many more keyboards.
The earliest Bearstronaut music available online is their 2011 five-song album “Satisfied Violence.” While the music itself is likeable, especially if you’re a synth-pop fan still freaking out over electropop band Chvrches’ 2013 release “The Bones of What You Believe,” which you should be, it doesn’t have that distinctive Bearstronaut feel that the band has curated over the last couple of years.
Their 2012 EP “Paradice” is solid but what’s special is that the record is imbued with and modernizes a hedonistic ’80s nightclub vibe. Basically, it makes me want to wear really tight neon, tease my hair and be under a disco ball, three things which I once vowed never to be doing at the same time. Recommended tracks include “Passenger Side,” which leans more towards electronic (though the bassline has notes of a funk influence that the band often cites) and “Painted in the Dark,” which is a lot more like other contemporary electronic pop-rock. Also noteworthy if you’re a Margaret Atwood fan is the track entitled “Paradice (Entrapment).” When they get to Wellesley for May Day, I am definitely asking if this is an Oryx and Crake (an amazing book by Margaret Atwood) reference. If it is, this song just went from good to, like, extra good.
Bearstronaut’s most recent release is their single “Black Bells,” released with an accompanying music video. While the single doesn’t really drift far from the personality they’ve been developing, I find the sound of “Paradice” much preferable; “Black Bells’” vocals are clearer against the background synth, and, where for many this might be a plus, the relative vapidity of the lyrics doesn’t seem to warrant the highlighting they receive.
In any case, the consistency of Bearstronaut’s feel suggests that the name of the game is still seducing you into revealing your inner dance demon. Most of their songs sound relatively similar — but hey, if it ain’t broken, why change it?