Music Review of Grizzly Bear's 'Veckatimest'

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Grizzly Bear

Of all the bands that could have been named Grizzly Bear it ends up being a bunch of precious art-rockers from Brooklyn whose music has no teeth at all. What a shame. The band is universally adored -- critics, bloggers, Josh Groban, they all sing their praises -- but the truth must be told: Grizzly Bear makes boring, bloated music that at best sounds like a second-rate Beach Boys rip-off and at worst indulges in the worst prog-rock excesses of the '70s.

"Veckatimest," the band's third album, is a trudging affair. Grizzly Bear's songs are like fancy, 500-piece jigsaw puzzles. There are the cascading harmonies, choral arrangements, specks of violin, twinkles of piano, reverb-drenched electric guitar. Except once everything interlocks and you stop to take in the final product, there's nothing there. It's all meandering textures. This is a band of sonic showoffs, nothing more. And who likes showoffs?

"Cheerleader" isn't as overstuffed as most of the album, but the result sounds like a Phil Spector track stripped of all its soul. "Ready, Able" gently saunters through four minutes of vocal and orchestra flourishes without any payoff, unless dramatic moaning is payoff. In which case this album is like winning the lottery.

"Two Weeks" is the exception to the rule, the one song that doesn't lull the listener into a near-comatose state. It's vibrant, based on a loping, descending piano riff -- just a few simple notes, but they resonate more than anything else on the record. The rest will send you into hibernation.

Grizzly Bear performs at the 9:30 club on June 1.

-- David Malitz


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