There is a sense that the business of independent rock music was founded on a sense of pure, unadulterated pop. Large handfuls of today's twenty and thirty-somethings still recall with fondness the early days of labels like Slumberland, Sarah, and SpinART; for many, the early days of collecting 7" singles started in a cloud of sugary ear candy.
This is a scene that certainly never vanished, but simply became a quieter strain in a sea of growing trends. Flagship, still-at-it bands like The Lucksmiths and Tullycraft are mixing with a new breed of pure pop heroes. One of the strongest new acts over the last few years has been Cleveland's Bears, whose 2006 self-titled debut proved out of the gate that this is a band that excels at making a catchy melody sound effortless.
Their latest, Simple Machinery, is an exercise in fine-tuning that skill. It begins and ends in celebratory fashion with a series of handclaps and harmonies, taking on the true challenge of a great indie pop record: the blurring of complex lyrical matter and simple, upbeat musical themes. For the most part, Simple Machinery documents the sweet parts of sadness: the ache and the mystery of distance, the connection between relationships that are never quite over, the impatience that comes with trying to figure out what makes one happy.
What Simple Machinery does best is perhaps the most crucial element of any great pop record: It captures a season. With its juxtaposition of melancholy and joy, it's an album that signifies endings even as it inspires hope. This is an album meant for summer's end. In the world of Bears, the guitars never cease jangling, the hands never stop clapping, and there's a very good chance that a well-placed organ riff will hold it all together. It's a well-documented form, for sure, but Bears pull it off with enough sincerity to remain convincing in all of the right ways.
MP3 Download - "Since I Met You"