The Bear Quartet

Gay Icon

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In a fashion typical to Bear Quartet's ever re-inventive state, Gay Icon shifts inside nine minutes from spare and queasy piano balladry to effervescent, '60s-inspired pop attired in tingly guitars and vintage organs. This opening salvo is followed by one of the best song titles ever, "Fuck Your Slow Songs," that encourages haters to do as much. Bear Quartet seem to be about accessibility on the surface. However, each of their numbers are treated with a poultice of noisy weirdness (the latter's accelerated steel guitar sample is a highlight) that suggests an M.O. more selfish. Maybe it's the Scandinavian in them, but there's a coldness in Bear Quartet that frosts even the most tingly melody. Despite this austerity, adventurous indie types should have no problem falling in love with Gay Icon, not to mention the rest of Bear Quartet's extensive catalog. After all, people went nuts for Sigur Ros, and those guys are barely from this planet. Gay Icon is much more approachable. "Hunchback" sounds like George Harrison fronting the Flaming Lips, while "Portrait Painter" returns to the opening cut's esoteric stillness, blending a mournful vocal with subtly manipulated backgrounds of radio squelch and plaintive harmony. Hazy keys drift underneath "Open the Door, Open"'s dusty acoustic shuffle, and the closing title track is a wordless organic lullaby. Elsewhere, the band suggests a more rambling Pavement, and returns periodically to a psychedelic influence. All in all, Bear Quartet is going to impress music types with their command of strange melody, stylistic restlessness, and fusion of electronic and organic elements, if they haven't already with an extensive list of hard-to-find releases.

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