Polar Bear Club

Death Chorus

Written by: PP on 28/11/2013 22:25:02

For their fourth album "Death Chorus" Polar Bear Club were faced with an unusual problem: having to embrace a new vocalist without actually replacing the old one. In the months gearing up to the recording sessions, singer Jimmy Stadt noticed some changes in his voice: an increasing level of discomfort and even outright pain when trying to sing in the same, charismatically raspy manner as in the past. So instead of forcing it and potentially being unable to complete the album, or worse, permanently damaging his vocal chords, he opted for the next best scenario: remove any and all roughened parts altogether, and replace them with something else. In other words, pull a Matt Tuck (Bullet For My Valentine vocalist faced with the same problem after "The Poison"), and hope for the best.

The internet response has been supportive, yet mildly disappointed. After all, the roughened roars over angular guitars were the key feature that distinguished Polar Bear Club from their peers. Replacing them with higher pitch cleans that don't sound much different from many pop punk vocalists isn't easily swallowed by older fans, unless they're able to make up for it somehow. One method would be to write triumphant songs that blow all such worries out the windows, and to some extent, they have succeeded with "For Show", "WLWYCD", and "Upstate Mosquito". While different, these are the highlight tracks that "Death Chorus" leans on, and without which "Death Chorus" would largely stumble and fall, left far outside of any end-of-year list consideration as a first for any PBC record including their EP "The Redder, The Better".

Which brings me to my next point: inconsistency. In the past, some of the more anonymous instrumental material has been able to hide underneath Stadt's charismatic roars. Here, these are exposed wide open, nowhere more so than on "Siouxsie Jeanne", by far one of the most boring songs this band has ever written. Luckily it's the only outright horrendous track on the record, but there are quite a few tracks that simply leave no impression on the listener, another first for the band. This is due to several reasons. One, the high-pitched vocals go way too high for their own good, overcompensating the rougher style and resulting in a lesser melody. The intensified emotional surges are just not present here, no matter which way you twist it. Two, the angular, complex instrumentation that was found on "Clash Battle Guilt Pride", and especially on their undeniably best album "Sometimes Things Just Disappear", is replaced with what is best described as standard, if not outright aimless riffage. What happened to the hooks? There's really no way around it, "Death Chorus" is the weakest PBC album to date, not just because of the vocal change, but also because the songs just aren't as well composed as before. It is for that reason, I fully expect not to remember this record by this time next year.

Download: For Show, Chicago Spring, Upstate Mosquito, WLWYCD
For the fans of: Jimmy Eat World, The Story So Far, A Loss For Words
Listen: Facebook

Release date 19.11.2013
Rise Records

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