Spacebear – Straight for the Sun

We aren’t looking for something new to say. Everything’s been said. Instead, music listeners and any lovers of art are looking to find new ways of expressing the familiar and meaningful. The greatest artists in any area discover their own personal language reflecting both their experience and tenor of the times. Spacebear’s Straight for the Sun sounds modest, in some respects. This power trio is quite capable of lowering their collective heads and bulldozing listeners with fierce, succinctly delivered rock and roll. They are equally possessed with the eternal energy of youth and each of the seven songs has an aura of fearlessness common for a debut. They are here to prove themselves and they do. Depending on how you hear it, however, Straight for the Sun can, despite its length, play like a work of surprising ambition. This is songwriting bursting with melody of every variety and taste packed into dense musical frameworks and punctuated by often intelligent lyrics. To balance things further, virtually every song on the EP pays some sort of respect to longtime rock formulas while never passing on chance to twist them in some compelling way.

The first song “Without You” is a perfect example. It’s a largely infectious romp surging on the rhythm section’s broad back, but Spacebear can’t resist the temptation of twisting listener’s expectations with a wild-eyed guitar solo near the song’s end. The second song “Blue” retains the same rock approach, but the rougher edges are rounded off and the song’s lyric is arguably much deeper than the opener. Spacebear consistently demonstrates a surprising literary style and nowhere is it more apparent than this track. The deft mix of the personal and universal gives this an unique flavor. “Echoes of Sunday” will jolt listeners with surprise when lush piano melodies unwind with an uncluttered grace absent from the first two songs. Vocalist and guitarist Kyle Lanter avoids any hint of the saccharine in his performance and his resonant baritone carries convincing authority. “Electric Sheep” rides its staccato riffing a little too long, but there’s enough fire breathing guitar rave ups scattered throughout the song to redeem its comparatively minor flaws.

Spacebear turns back towards conventional alt-rock with “Waiting on You”. It’s easily the album’s radio-friendly track par excellence, but the chorus takes a slightly blander route than many might like. The band’s powerful musical chemistry, once again, redeems any weaknesses. “Hope’s Gone” is a mid-tempo rocker that, like the earlier “Blue”, achieves a compelling mix of the personal with the social. It’s a treat to hear a modern band capable of nodding to long established formulas while still finding their own niche to express themselves in singular ways. The finale “Constellation” opens with a tinkling keyboard flourish and builds steadily from there. This is easily the band’s most nakedly ambitious track as it moves from a jangling quasi folk-rocker into a trademark Spacebear wall-of-sound guitar battle by the song’s conclusion. The chorus is, perhaps, a little predictable, but some will hear that as a good thing.

Straight for the Sun is a fun and energetic debut by a band with smarts and chops to burn. They don’t have any need to remake the wheel. Instead, Spacebear have dusted off some longstanding poses and filled them with a spirit and rambunctiousness all their own.

8 out of 10 stars.


William Elgin