Jules and the Polar Bears

Got No Breeding

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Jules and the Polar Bears' debut album, Got No Breeding, fell into a commercial twilight zone shortly after its release in 1978; the music was too quirky and the wit of the lyrics was too curious for the mainstream rock audience, but the band's approach was too firmly rooted in mainstream pop for the new wave crowd, who Columbia thought would be the record's likely target audience (and the shaggy picture of Jules Shear and his bandmates on the cover wasn't likely to encourage the skinny-tie wearing record buyer). However, in time Got No Breeding became a cult favorite, and with good reason -- it's a superlative collection of smart, well-crafted pop tunes played with enthusiasm and élan by a great band. The studio-savvy guitar work of Richard Bredice and Stephen Hague's piano have one foot in mainstream rock & roll, but the slightly strangled cry of Shear's vocals takes these songs into another place, though he's able to keep up with the band when they shift into high gear on tunes like "Convict" and "Driftwood from Disaster," and he generates some genuine soul on "You Just Don't Wanna Know" and the title cut. Shear's songs also take a skewed but heartfelt look at life and love in the Modern Age, and there isn't a less than memorable tune in the bunch; close to thirty years on, Got No Breeding's fusion of polished studio craft and idiosyncratic pop experimentation sounds prescient rather than eccentric. Got No Breeding is where Jules Shear's career as a cult hero really took off, and with good reason -- it's a thoroughly enjoyable album and one of the finest records his name has ever been attached to. [In 2007, Wounded Bird Records reissued Got No Breeding after Columbia's CD edition fell out of print. The new version included four bonus tracks -- three outtakes from the Got No Breeding sessions, among them the excellent "Good Safe Hug," and a slightly more radio friendly single remix of "You Just Don't Wanna Know."]

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