Bear vs. Shark


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Terrorhawk delivers a thousand percent on the promise of Right Now, You're in the Best of Hands, Bear vs Shark's 2003 debut. It's an impassioned and anxious indie rock stomp with a straight line drawn to the tension and urgency of D.C. post-hardcore. But it also bleeds sensitivity, and has a novel's touch in its opaque yet highly evocative lyrics. Mark Paffi is a presence in the center -- he's not quite singing, but it's not a shout either, and this catch-all style is responsible for some of the album's most incredible melodies ("5, 6 Kids," "Entrance of the Elected"). Bear vs Shark also get a lot of mileage out of stopping and starting a blaring electric guitar, and get an assist from programming whiz Matthew Dear here and there. "Baraga Embankment" aligns brass instruments next to those guitars, "Seven Stop Hold Restart" and "Catamaran" channel Fugazi effectively, and "I F****d Your Dad" has a little bit of a Modest Mouse feel. There's a tangible depth to Terrorhawk. There's ballast in its songs, so they really sink in. It's that novelistic quality again -- it takes some doing to let it surround you. But by the time the six-minute "Song About Old Roller Coaster" comes around, the album's been through surging melodies ("5, 6 Kids" again), manically dense layers (the absolutely crazy "Heard Iron Bug, 'They're Coming to Town"), and slippery little interludes ("India Foot" sounds like a field recording from a video arcade), and you're in for the long haul. Powerful, visceral, rewarding, and just a little confounding, Bear vs Shark is a band with both sharp claws and razor teeth. Watch out -- the Terrorhawk will slice you good.

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