London-based alt-rock band Bear’s Den made one of their first ventures onto our record players in 2013 with their highly acclaimed EP Agape. It’s also been two years since their debut album Islands was released, and both fans and critics alike have awaited new material longingly. We’ve been fortunate enough to get our hands on a preview copy of the band’s new album, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, and thought we’d give some insight as to what to expect when it’s released on the 22nd of July.
Opening (and titular) track ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’ begins with swirling riffs, which introduce the velvet tones of lead singer Andrew Davie; the overall feel is euphoric and hopeful, contributed to by layered percussion and electric guitar. Davie asks the listener “Don’t you remember love?” before describing an image of passion in the pouring rain, playing on all the senses.
Hardened fans of Bear’s Den will be glad to know that the band has returned to their established soft-natured and positive mood – ‘Dew on the Vine’ describes how there’s always a trace of relationships left behind, whilst harmonies and guitars blend together seamlessly – just as always. However, the overly drawn out instrumental end to the song that includes a slow fade is a little predictable and lacks creativity.
Many of the tracks on the album begin and end with these long instrumental build-ups or fades. ‘Love Can’t Stand Alone’ is no different – yet this track features a long passage where the vocals take centre stage. Limited accompaniment aside, the echoing and reverberating vocals are incredibly poignant, talking of harnessing inner strength.
Red Earth & Pouring Rain’s final track ‘Napoleon’ is equally well put together. Once more the vocals and lyrics are strong, and are matched by the band’s choice of accompaniment, but the song fails to gather momentum. It makes for incredibly pleasant listening, but unfortunately little more. Much the same can be said for the album as a whole: Bear’s Den continue to showcase their instrumental strengths, but everything feels very safe. With music nowadays being so readily available, it’s becoming far harder to be original and push boundaries. So I acknowledge the difficulty of the task at hand, and I’m sure that many people will dote upon Red Earth & Pouring Rain. For me, though, it just misses that extra something that would tie it all together – something impossible to place or describe, and something that artists can spend years trying to discover. Red Earth & Pouring Rain is a good album – but it’s not one that quite stands out.By Rachel Moore