Think of Bears as something like a rudimentary weather machine. They fashion sunny nuggets of '60s psych-pop and breezy, jangling bursts of melody that disguise sometimes bittersweet sentiments. The recording duo of drummer Craig Ramsey and guitarist Charlie McArthur expands to a six-piece in concert, to recreate the rich texture and details of the band's self-titled debut.
At a recent Spot show on the Case Western Reserve campus, Ramsey and McArthur initially set out by themselves, each on an acoustic guitar. They ran through a pair of new songs, including "I Know You're Gone," whose urgent melody recalls the Wedding Present, with the classic pop undertones of the Rosebuds. The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" -- an appropriate musical touchstone -- played as the rest of the members took the stage. Over the course of their set, the sextet sampled from a variety of pop styles, including the acid-pop of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd ("Over It"), the sleepy swoon of the Velvet Underground ("Everywhere"), and the bounding folk of the Byrds ("Walk Away"). Keyboards and organ contributed heavily to the lush, irrepressible hooks.
The show was imbued with the feel of a college mixtape, full of longing and idealism destined for sorrow. The vibe was epitomized by the bustling melody of "When You're Away," whose anxious sketch of a breakup discussion is punctuated by the dumpee's lament, "It's harder when you're away." Sun-kissed, sad, and impossibly infectious, Bears' music rings with hope, even as you sense it won't come to a kind end.
McArthur sang on, intoning, "It doesn't matter what I choose or why." As the set ended, the final thick, swelling chords blanketed the room, providing welcome comfort amid the relentless wave of heartache.