The 2 Bears - Be Strong
Following breakthrough radio play and increasing acclaim in dance music circles, The 2 Bears are ready for listeners to experience the delights of a picnic hamper that is full to bursting. Hot Chip off the old block Joe Goddard has joined paws with fellow DJ Raff Daddy to deliver an effervescent debut that's hard to ignore, even if you rarely step into a club. Be Strong is a party album shot through with a healthy dose of silliness but, despite having a lot of fun beneath the strobe lights, shouldn't be dismissed as a lightweight proposition.
It's primarily a celebration of house music, with other dance sub-genres rubbing up against the bouncing keys, driving beats, female vocal snatches and catchy, euphoric choruses to create something unique. Fans of Goddard's band certainly won't be disappointed, as the quirks here are even more pronounced. The single 'Bear Hug', despite its sleazy bass and gruff male vocal, is more than just an apt anthem for a hairier subset of gay men; instead, it's a call-to-arms to all bodies on the dancefloor to unite, a sentiment helped by a left-turn centrepiece vocal from Goddard which lets us know that 'everything's gonna be alright'. It sets the tone for a record that promotes fun and submission to the soundsystem, but one that also merry dances the listener blind into the woods.
'Give the music all your loving' commands the title track, which lifts two fingers up to music snobbery and is basically a warm embrace to dance music. Placed at the top of the record and featuring a spoken word checklist of the Bears' musical heroes, it's a warning to listeners to leave behind all pre-conceived notions and pretensions, and to simply let go and enjoy the ride. Highlights include 'Ghosts & Zombies', which certainly isn't dead on arrival, as well as non-signposted detours like singalong country lament 'Time & Mind' and jittery, reggae-tinged carnival celebration 'Heart of the Congos'. Finale 'Church' is one final, steel drum aided opportunity for those on the floor to hug their neighbours before the lights come up and the magic disappears.
You'll either love the 'anything and everything goes' approach or want to leave the party early. Either way, there's no denying that Be Strong's playful approach makes it a worthy entry to the 'alt. dance' canon; touted by many as a spiritual successor to Screamadelica, The 2 Bears' debut is also likely to appeal to fans of other dance-influenced genre-benders such as Gorillaz and Neon Neon. If you couldn't give a toss about the Olympics, it's a definite possibility that you'll be twisting your melon to this bare badness at a summer festival very soon.