This review won’t be filled with cliches about how Spacebear’s debut EP proves rock isn’t dead. Anyone with a measurable attention span and half an intellect knows that as long as teenagers are teenagers enough of them will scoop up a musical instrument at some point and start seriously playing. It isn’t even debatable. Spacebear’s debut release hits a lot of marks and underscoring the continued relevance and vitality of a half century plus old art form is important, but ultimately minor. Spacebear’s true achievement lies in their seemingly off the cuff ability to fuse intelligent lyrical content, memorable melodies, and often raucous guitar while retaining a slightly skewed personality all their own.
However, they are intent on first establishing their credentials. “Without You” covers familiar lyrical territory, but guitarist/vocalist Kyle Lanter belts out the text with such musical authority listeners will be stretched to care about the subject’s originality. The melody is straightforward and its simplicity immediately connects. Even here, Spacebear cannot resist the impulse to twist the expected with a furious guitar solo erupting from the mix like a wild blast of fire. They cop the same guitar-centric attack with “Blue”, but this is a much more original track that tackles environmental concerns with an urgent, unique voice. Spacebear’s lyrical content has an understated poetic quality on some tracks and nowhere does that emerge clearer than on this song.
There’s a lot of great things going on in “Electric Sheep”, namely the crackling chemistry evident between the players, but the interlocking vocal and guitar melody is overextended. Spacebear seems to realize this possibility by throwing a few changes into the mix, but it isn’t enough and the slight droning quality might complicate enjoying the track for some. Strong harmonies and the band’s steady penchant for melody tempers the dark “Hope’s Gone” while “Waiting for You” demonstrates the band’s considerable skill at condensing considerable dramatics within a relatively small musical space. There’s no questioning Spacebear’s pop instincts - whatever criticisms might be leveled against Straight for the Sun, overindulgence isn’t among them. This is a song packed with rising and falling, breathless climaxes, and sharp unexpected turns that likely make it a popular live number. “Constellation” closes the album with another example of their talent for epic brevity and surprise. Jangling guitars largely propel this track and give a slightly interstellar folky feel that’s quite unexpected after the preceding din. It’s an impressive ending to Straight for the Sun that places a musical exclaimation point on everything before it.
Spacebear has an uphill climb. Rock may still carry creative weight for those ready to give it a chance, but there’s no question it doesn’t occupy the same lofty commercial perch it once enjoyed. Fortunately, uphill climb or not, Spacebear doesn’t give a damn. They prove with Straight from the Sun that they are an outrageously inventive band with the chops to pull off anything they want. Check this space again – there’s surely even more greatness to come.
Spacebear - Straight For The Sun
9 out of 10 stars.