Bear in Heaven are releasing their fourth LP on Dead Oceans, not DFA, but their organic analog approach to making dance rock aligns with the James Murphy ethos. It wasn’t always that way. With each successive album, Bear in Heaven sound more like The Rapture and less like Neu!, and their fourth LP, Time Is Over One Day Old, continues that trend. It’s a catchy, well-produced record with occasionally beautiful atmospherics. Yet it’s also full of glossy synths and predictable drum parts that lazily reinforce disco revival cliches. In essence, Bear in Heaven have become really good at imitation, but really bad at giving their listeners any insight into who they are and what they stand for.
Unsurprisingly, the record works best when Bear in Heaven tap back into the krautrock roots of earlier albums like 2009’s Beast Rest Forth Mouth. “Memory Heart”, with its sharp, linear percussion, harks back to Damo Suzuki-era Can without ever stepping into pastiche territory, while the slow-burning “The Sun and the Moon and the Stars” is every bit as dreamy as its title suggests. And if there’s any song that manages to successfully and naturally intersperse the band’s slick pop tendencies with their weirder, psychedelic ones, it’s “They Dream”, which builds up to a euphoric, drum-less coda about midway through what may be the album’s most gorgeous moment.
When Bear in Heaven try to sound like a DFA group, though, they become ordinary and mechanistic. “Demon”, with its wash of slippery keyboards and plodding Cut Copy beat, sounds like it belongs on loop in a swanky hotel or spa lobby, while “Way Off” relies on a series of uninteresting synth effects to make up for its lack of melody and momentum.
One of the fundamental points of criticism regarding the final Rapture album — the criminally underrated In the Grace of Your Love, which feels like an unlikely cousin to Time Is Over One Day Old — was its overt genuineness. In trying to write an unfiltered record about losing and then regaining one’s faith, the band was criticized for coming across as too simplistic, too humble, and too reverent. It was refreshing, though, to hear a dance rock album feel urgent. In the Grace of Your Love was the sound of a forgotten band pleading for your interest and affection as if life itself depended on it. Time Is Over One Day Old may possess the same lineage as that record, but despite all of its attempts at being similarly organic, it couldn’t be colder or more distant.
Essential Tracks: “The Sun and the Moon and the Stars”, “They Dream”, and “Memory Heart”