Back in my teens, my best friend and I embarked on a short-lived and ill-advised music project that went by the name of Mr. Law. We didn’t really give melody or structure any time of day; the idea was to just play dissonantly and hit jam jars a bit. It wasn’t experimental, it wasn’t avant-garde and it certainly wasn’t art. We were just being weird because we wanted to. I get very much the same vibe from Bear VS Rhino.
On their new EP Vulture Song, London’s Bear VS Rhino document their first year and a half as band, and it sounds like three lads in a garage having a hell of a time making a racket. One of life’s simple pleasures.
The collection kicks off with ‘Beck Up, Back Up’ which opens with a grinding sludge riff before darting all over the musical landscape. You get a drawling Mark E. Smith vocal style occasionally giving way to some Mike Patton-esque swirls of craziness. You get gloriously dissonant guitar work trading phrases with almost anthemic pop rock tones that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear on a Reuben album. There are next to no production values (it was recorded in a shipping container) so this is about as lo-fi as it comes, but there are plenty of ideas and plenty of potential on show. This is just the first song.
Elsewhere on the EP, you get the slinky Gang of Four post-punk bass line of ‘Milli80seconds:publicist’ (not a typo) which underpins a slow, brooding piece of music with a schizophrenic exploding attack added in sporadically for good measure. You get the The-Fall-plays-jazz stylings of the brilliantly (or oddly) titled ‘A Letter To My Brother And Sister, Fuck Him, He Doesn’t Know What Paracetemol Is’. You also get the frenetic, more conventional punk attack of ‘If It Looks Dead and If It Smells Dead, It’s Probably Fucking Dead’. Variety is clearly the order of the day for Bear VS Rhino.
This is unquestionably a band playing for an incredibly narrow niche. There is potential here and you get the feeling that they could do something more conventional and with a much wider appeal if only they wanted to. That they don’t want to is a credit to them, and fair play. No matter what you think of the noise Bear VS Rhino make, they sound like they’re having an absolute whale of a time making it.
3 out of 5 high fives!