Be Strong is the debut album from The 2 Bears, an electro group based in London. As you might expect from the side project of a member of Hot Chip, the mellow electro they produce is weird but still quite funky – the album Be Strong is comprised of 12 tracks of bizarre experimental electronica. The opener, “Birds And Bees” is a clumsily charming track with brass (which is always a winner with me) tooting over a mixture of xylophones and electronics. There’s so many sounds on the track it’s hard to identify them all but it works all together to make an almost surf-y vibe. The title track is a bizarre one, nonetheless tuneful and very 90s. It’s not the most attention grabbing track but holds its own. “Bear Hug” is another weird track, a pitch-lowered voice talking what can only be described as “shite” over some keyboards and samples. “Work” is the record’s lead single but really doesn’t hold many similarities to the rest of the tracks. With an instantly memorable piano riff and chorus line, “We gotta work” it tones down the weird a good amount. Generic-sounding dance percussion underlays the whole track and somewhat deprives it of a “TUUUUNE” announcement.
“Warm & Easy” is a pretty mellow track with vocals nodding to Damon Albarn’s work in Gorillaz, with a cosy, whimsical chorus; it could very well be the soundtrack to a cryptic dream that you might have about your dog owning your house. Or something along those lines. The second half of the album is more coherent, with a more solid rubric for each song rather than the flitting between the absurd and the conventional track by track, percussively there’s very little variation but the electronics are more focused here – a lot more accessible while still showing off the group’s indietronica credentials. Tracks like “Ghosts & Zombies” and “Get Together” are the standouts, with some bouncy basslines and catchy vocals. “Church” is another bouncy track to close the album, sticking even closer to tradition, that could be a Hot Chip track.
I expected more from a Greco-Roman band featuring Joe Goddard (see his 2011 track “Gabriel” for a proper example of what the Hot Chip member can do away from the band), but if you’re into this sound in a big way Be Strong is a solid release. With groups like Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Drums Of Death as contemporaries, however, The 2 Bears could perform a lot better.