Mellowdrone | The Angry Bear (Coming Home)

cd_mellowdrone.gifIf The Angry Bear is any indication, this will be a long and rewarding relationship for years to come.







I went into this one blind…especially blind. I grabbed it because of pretty cover art (yes, I also use that method of selection with wine and books, just as you’re not supposed to). I was instantly drawn in to the drone-drenched shoegaze/indie rock, then checked to see who I was listening to. The Angry Bear? Never heard of ‘em, but I liked ‘em.

It wasn’t until I popped the disc into iTunes that I realized this was the latest by Mellowdrone, a band I’d not yet been introduced to. If The Angry Bear is any indication, this will be a long and rewarding relationship for years to come.

Mellowdrone is the brainchild of Jonathan Bates, apparently a crazy talented guitarist. Add to his curriculum vitae his songwriting and singing chops and you’ve got one well-rounded musician. The Angry Bear gathers all of the songwriter’s talents and presents them in a way that is rich and aurally pleasing.

Stripped down, this is shoegaze music, complete with the occasional Jesus and Mary Chain-style distortion. But it’s more than that: on top of the meandering melodics, Bates layers deep percussion and guitar licks, topping the whole thing with strong vocals that, at times, almost growl. It’s not upbeat, yet it’s not dark. It’s not rocking, yet it’s not meandering. You get the feeling that every single instrument, every single word, every single layer was carefully and exquisitely placed to create the sounds in Bates’ head.

It’s hard to choose favorites on this one; each song is unique yet characteristically Mellowdrone, meaning they’re all good. Following disc opener "Where Ever You May Go," "Elephant" kicks it up a notch. "Alone = In Your Face" has a strong come-hither vibe; it feels slightly dark and dangerous, lending multiple interpretations to the line, "You’ll never be alone/ ‘cause I’m always with you." Where "Esmerelda" is a proclamation of love, "Big Winner" is feedback full with a hint of sarcasm.

After the low-key back-to-back intermissions of "Drinking Song" and "Lady in Her Underwear" comes the dark synth-fueled "Logged Hours" (complete with whistled intro); it reminds me a bit of ‘00s Depeche Mode. For another analogy, "Button" is a bit EELS-ish, with below-the-bar instrumentation and vocals. There’s a comfortable throwback feel to "Jumping Off the Pier"; disc-closer "DMT" quietly ties things up.

While Mellowdrone has familiar roots, its unique blend of sounds and styles keep it far fresher than most of what’s out today. Heartily recommended. A | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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