I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Be Strong, the debut album from electro-pop/house revival duo The 2 Bears, consisting of Joe Goddard and Raf Rundell. While I know little of Rundell’s work, Goddard has created some brilliant albums as part of Hot Chip, and one of last year’s best singles in the form of Gabriel featuring Valentina.
While this would usually give me high hopes for an album, The 2 Bears seem determined not to take their work seriously. The first track I heard from them, Bear Hug, is repetitive to the point of awkwardness at times: an ode to a sticky, drugged-up embrace which at one point features a sample of Rundell admitting “this is ridiculous.” Their name refers to a gay subculture and while performing live they insist on wearing fluffy bear costumes.
Once you look past this jokey façade however, you begin to realise that The 2 Bears are much more than they appear. The opener The Birds and the Bees is a beautifully layered instrumental track which lifts the mood perfectly in preparation for a full listen. Work, meanwhile, begins with an incredibly catchy piano riff that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Calvin Harris track and continues to descend its way into a field of darker, more minor chords, without ever losing the irresistible dance beat.
I would say that in essence that’s what this album is about: two men who have obviously been inspired by (or obsessed with) a love for 80s-style dance music. In fact the lyrics to the title track state this perfectly: “Some people say that music sets you free, but all my life the music has imprisoned me.”
Yes, the album hits a few bum notes (Time in Mind feels a bit like a nursery rhyme written for Taylor Swift, and I didn’t feel that the ambient Increase Your Faith was entirely necessary) and yes, the effects on Rundell’s vocals which litter the album do begin to grate at times, but overall this is a very enjoyable listen. In a post-dubstep world, this house-revival electronic music is something I welcome with open arms.
Best songs: Work, Church, Be Strong
Worst songs: Time in Mind, Heart of the Congos, Increase Your Faith