When I heard an MP3 of Gold-Bears’ infectious “Record Store” for the first time, I assumed that the group had to be from Ireland or the north of England. With their menacing buzzsaw guitars and a vocalist who sounded like a cross between The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey, Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley, and David Gedge of The Wedding Present, these guys just couldn’t have hailed from anywhere else. But what do you know? Gold-Bears are Anglophiles from Atlanta, Georgia, who, according to their All Music Guide bio, bonded over a mutual love for The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and The Wedding Present.
While I can hear some of those influences on Gold-Bears’ stellar Slumberland Records debut album, Are You Falling In Love? (vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Underwood’s lyrics have a bitter yet humorous quality to them, quite reminiscent to those of Morrissey or the aforementioned Gedge), sonically the band sounds more like a cross between high octane late 1970s UK punk-pop and some elements from the classic C86 sound, namely jangly guitar and plenty of feedback. A more jaded and mischievous Pains of Being Pure At Heart, if you’re looking for a contemporary measuring stick.
Are You Falling In Love? opens with “Record Store,” which provides a joyous rush reminiscent to The Undertones’ classic “Teenage Kicks,” including classic bordering on over dramatic Morrissey-like word play to boot: “You saved my life from the backdoor of a crowded record store.” The even faster paced “All Those Years” and “So Natural” follow, and by then the listener should be in a sugar rush state, jumping around the room. The introspective title track provides some breathing room and, in addition to being a fantastic song, it’s another Underwood lyrical gem, opening with the following gem: “‘Fuck my life’ you sent in a text last night”!
From this point on, Are You Falling Love? does an excellent job of combining faster paced punky numbers with more reserved material. “Totally Called It” holds its own with “Record Store” for the album’s best single (so to speak), heightened with a Smiths meets shoegaze guitar frenzy near the end. Meanwhile, poignant numbers like “Xmas Song,” “Besides You,” and “Yeah, Tonight” provide ample evidence that Underwood may have a future as a novelist if he ever tires of music. Underwood cannot be praised enough for his sharp, observant songwriting, which combines elements of nostalgia, regret, and hope without ever being even remotely clichéd. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so impressed with an album’s lyric sheet.Visit: Gold-Bears | Slumberland
Purchase: Insound | eMusic