While undoubtedly the furthest thing from reality, I’d like to think that the recording of Brooklyn experimental rock outfit Bear in Heaven‘s third album, I Love You, It’s Cool, went a little like the following:
A nerdy kid, lover of Doctor Who, and owner of many Star Wars 12″ figures put all that kiddie stuff in a box under his bed, picked up a synth (being too awkward for a guitar), and did his best to refigure and regurgitate the records of his newfound idols Morrissey, Can, and Prince.
That scenario, above any other and despite all impossibilities, best explains the New Wave-inspired krautrock and emotional sensibility of the record’s 10 concise tracks.
It’d be unfair to call this LP immature or underdeveloped. If anything, Jon Philpot and company eschewed and slanted their musical and lyrical worldviews purposefully, resulting in something that resembles a nostalgic look back at a set of feelings and notions as opposed to a half-cocked effort falling prey to ill-informed planning and execution. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of R.L. Stine or J.K. Rowling writing books for readers a tenth their age.
Lyrically, the album hovers around the emotional maturity and romantic mastery of a white male in his late teens. “The Reflection of You” encapsulates much of the record’s true lyrical aim, which takes shape around the awkward and unnerving act of opening up to girls who’ve only barely recognized you as human.
“Daylight won’t stop the flashing lights/It feels like a thousand years have gone by without you/I miss someone like you/I wanna tell you secret things/My lips won’t kiss anything amazing.”
Cheesy? Yes. Genuine, at least to a certain cross-section of the bands listening public? That too. The point is that it’s overly inflated, painfully melodramatic poetry, but the sentiment is real enough to both the author and the album’s New Wave roots to work. Of course, when Philpot pulls back on his intentions and focuses, those same sentiments become sharper and even more insightful.
“If you could dance with me, I think you’d like my moves/If you get too next to me, I’ll have nothing left to prove/Here I am, there you are/Just inches away but still too far.”
Those revelations, by far, are more universal and genuine, escaping the eyeliner and tight pants of the New Wave world for an endearing and romantic gesture. “Sinful Nature” almost accomplishes the same kind of feat, focusing more on one-liners (like “Lets get loaded/And make some strange things come true” or “Youre let down by God/Youre let down by boring strangers”) to perpetuate the same sexed-out, overly eager character.
The same mindset the lyrics stem from also informs the album’s instrumental offerings. Once more, things feel decidedly limited to one standard model, with very little room for impassioned deviations from the synth-powered, slightly ambient set of tunes.
Album opener “Idle Heart” takes a chunky, almost groovy bassline and ultra-shimmery synths and wraps them both up inside near-infinite piles of hazy, distorted effects and noises. This causes the already-bright instrumentation to shine through with the intensity of a newly cut diamond. The star of the show, however, is Philpot’s voice, especially effeminate and glowing with unseen theatricality, sounding more sensual than any note a synth could ever produce.
As lusty as the aforementioned cut is, “Kiss Me Crazy” outshines it with the simplest and most subtle of gestures. Though Philpot’s voice is no longer the focal point, his manly coo, brimming with loads of snappy sass and peacock-like posturing, sounds just as relevant amid walls of pounding drums and a hodgepodge of synths, chimes, and leftover studio tweaks. It’s perhaps the most direct link to the musical soft-core porn of the mid-’80s that the album is overwhelmingly trying to re-create.
Despite the overwhelming similarities between each album track, the bubble they’ve limited themselves to works exceedingly well. There’s this dynamic going on throughout the musical choices, a kind of uncomplicated complexity or a complicated simplicity. Terrible buzzwords aside, each track is clearly a one-of-a-kind work in that, though they fit together as one clear picture, the minute details, be it the overall pacing or even a minor shift in their choice of synth sound, make the case for true intricacy. I might go as far as saying this is more involved than the proggy Beast Rest Forth Mouth; although there’s less going on, the parts that are there have been engineered together with a newfound level of dexterity.
So much of music nowadays seems obsessed with nostalgia, returning to a simpler, better time that’s anywhere but here and now. The lads of BiH have taken that dedication to its most logical conclusion, coupling the very essence of New Wave synth with the very foundations of their sexual and emotional development. As unlikely as even this sounds, the end result is more appealing than the retro-heavy work of many of their fellow Brooklynites.
Essential Tracks: “Idle Heart”, “The Reflection of You”, “Sinful Nature”, and “Kiss Me Crazy”