The Bats

Fear of God

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When the band switched to a new American label, Mammoth, little else changed in the world of the Bats, with Scott again leading his musicians through a set of songs that, on the face of it, seem like just more indie rock but often achieve quietly spectacular heights. "Boogey Man" begins Fear on a perfectly Bats note -- ringing guitar, Scott's straightforward singing with Woodward on counterpoint vocals, a medium-speed pace, and understated but sharp detailing of emotions and thoughts. It's that lyrical element which so often distinguishes the Bats from other acts, combining images that are just cutting enough to make a listener stop and think rather than simply sing along, easy as that is to do. "Dancing as the Boat Goes Down," with guest performances on viola, "You Know We Shouldn't," an invocation of secrets and feelings best kept unspoken, and the slightly more rocking title track are three more of the highlights in that area. The slight musical differences between each song won't likely be everyone's cup of tea -- the Bats do have a formula and they rarely if ever deviate from it here. Even allowing for the fact that the songs tend to blend into one another, the fine balance between musical joy and lyrical concern still works well. What changes there are here from their musical norm bring out the band's strengths all that much more. Highlights include the stripped-down break in "Straight Image," the acoustic guitar/accordion beginning of "Looming Past," and the serene flow of "Watch the Walls," with its subtle drum start, serene string/guitar combination, and generally slower pace.

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