Man Bear

Album review: Man Bear - Power Slop (EP)

(Photo by Chad Cogdill)
 
I am an absolute whore for woo-hoos. I’m pretty sure I always have been. I would assume it goes back to the steady diet of Oldies 95 I had growing up. Those two hooky syllables, three chords, a juice box and some chuggy guitar, and Zach is a happy boy. It is for this sole reason that “Rocket to Knowhere,” the opening track off Man Bear’s most recent EP Power Slop, surprisingly caught my ear.
 
I say surprisingly as I will admit I have not always been a fan of Man Bear. Their previous efforts (such as Feeling Kinda Lo(Fi) and Infinity Cat are absolutely fine and dandy in their own right, just were never this reviewer’s thing.
 
But Power Slop ironically shows a real escalation and tightness for the KC area trio. The songs are more intricately arranged and envisioned. The instrumentation is quirky, yet purposeful, varied and appealing. The performances seem taut and dutifully prepared. By the end of this review I found myself thinking “Man, they really do sound a lot like They Might Be Giants at times,” which happens to be one of my all-time favorite bands. So, much to the excitement of many of my friends that have always dug them, it seems as though I have been converted.
 
This lo-fi, five-song pop/punk effort comes in at just under 12 minutes. Fans of The ACBs’ most recent LP Little Leaves will really enjoy what Man Bear is offering here. The aforementioned opener powers through a quick ninety seconds with a Presidents of the United States of America straight beat groove, simple contrasting guitar work, and strains of forced, airy vocals. The choices of instrumentation in “Bass Revenge” really shimmer, the guitar work on the choruses especially. The band seems to have a good thing going pairing the stodgy acoustic guitar sound on one side with the more distorted, reverb-laden lead sounds of the other. It’s an age-old home studio trick, but Man Bear seems to have mastered it to great effect.
 
“Oh Well, Whatever” is quick slice of slightly off-kilter, high-energy pop punk, featuring a just-diverse-enough off-time riff structure (and another nod given for the effective use of woos). I appreciate their use, not abuse, of the all-powerful triplet. Dare I say that the last track “Fast Asleep at 10 PM” is a delightful throwback acoustic number reminiscent of a time where hair metal power ballads ruled the airwaves? I guess I just did.
 
They may call it Power Slop, but especially compared to their previous efforts, it is anything but. I am happy to see the sonic progress this band has made in a relatively short amount of time. Well done, Man Bear. Keep wooing in this direction.

--Zach Hodson

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production. He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.
 
 
 
Alex Courtney of Man Bear will be playing an acoustic show next Thursday, December 19 at The Brick. Members of Bent Left, Dead Ven, Deco Auto, and Hipshot Killer will also be playing. Facebook event page.

 

 

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Album review: Man Bear - Infinity Cat (EP)

(Photo by Layne Haley)

Lo-fi: pretentious calculated choice or economic necessity? When someone says, “Because that’s how __________ did it,” you know you’re dealing with the former. When someone says, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” that’s a sign of honesty, simplicity, and little money.
 
Man Bear’s latest EP, Infinity Cat, is riddled with economic necessity, a condition that doesn’t bode well for fashion endorsements. In fact, listening to Man Bear, it’s obvious the band doesn’t bode well for fashion anything. But it all makes for great songwriting and a real, gritty-sounding recording.
 
Continuing to fly the tattered banner of Midwest punk rock, Kansas City’s Man Bear lets it rip with five solid tracks of shredded melodic anthems. Vocals are nearly lost in the mix, guitars are distorted within an inch of their lives, and someone might have bumped a keyboard, then let it play the same loop for the first three songs.  And through all the power and noise, a strand of pop sensibility threads the three-piece outfit together.
 
The favorable comparisons to The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Buffalo Tom, and Superchunk are inevitable, but in no way diminish the sermon Man Bear preaches. Paul Westerberg would be spinning in his grave, bright green with jealousy, if he didn’t have the bad sense to still be alive.
 
Don’t think because Infinity Cat chooses heart over production that Man Bear doesn’t try. They pack their short songs with tons of hooks and tight rhythms. The backward guitar solo in the tragi-ballad “A Girl I Once Knew” and the pulsing cowbell in “All Goes Down” are nice touches. Man Bear tries all right; they just don’t try to please everyone.
 
Infinity Cat probably won’t usher in a new-wave of mid-paced, rootsy punk rock. Too unfashionable, too risky, and too bad, because the near absence of any type of rock—punk or otherwise—has made albums like Infinity Cat more crucial than ever.
 
 
Man Bear will be performing at The Brick on Saturday, March 2. The band was recently featured on KC Live on KSHB-TV 41 (see below), and was also named the winner of The Deli’s open submission poll for Best Kansas City Emerging Artist of 2012.
 
 

--Steven M. Garcia

Steven is guitarist and lead vocalist for Kansas City power pop trio Deco Auto. He also makes a deliciously angry salsa.

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Deli Best of KC Area 2012 for Emerging Artists - Submission Results!

We've tallied the results for the Open Submissions stage of our KC Area Year End Poll for Emerging Artists. All of the submissions were ranked by Deli Editors from other scenes, and the list of acts that have advanced to our Readers’/Fans’ Poll phase are below. We will also be releasing the list of nominees chosen by our local "scene expert" jurors very soon. 

Thanks to all of the talented artists who submitted their music to us. We hope to have a larger pool of entries next year!

Total submissions from the KC area scene: 32

Qualified to the final phase of the Best of Kansas City Poll:

1. Man Bear – 7.8 (out of 10)
2. We Are Voices – 7.5
3. Gentleman Savage – 7.5
4. Gemini Revolution – 7.3
5. The Elders – 7.3
6. Making Movies – 7.2
7. Attic Wolves – 7.2

Honorable Mentions: Hipshot Killer, The Empty Spaces, Dream Wolf, Radkey, Dollar Fox

Jurors: Dawn Reed (Deli Washington DC), Gracie Gutman (Deli SF), Paolo De Gregorio (Deli NYC).  

The Deli Staff

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Show review: Man Bear at The Riot Room, 6.23.12

Man Bear seems to be taking orders from a higher power. First, bring back the loud. Second, focus on the short pop song.  Third, don’t work too hard at it.

This is what we got from Man Bear’s set Saturday at The Riot Room. The local power trio took us back to the early ’90s, when punk wasn’t shiny and clean but after it had been fully Americanized. Theirs is a style that retains its pop sensibility beneath waves of distortion. The number of bands to which Man Bear can be favorably compared might go on forever. It would be silly to even try to count them all, so I’ll just list the first 10 or so that come to mind:

Superchunk, The Replacements, The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Archers of Loaf, The Meices, Seaweed, Soul Asylum, Goo Goo Dolls, Armchair Martian, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Husker Du . . . and on and on.

Man Bear’s set included slacked-out versions from its album Talking Drunk at 2 a.m. This is where the “not working too hard at it” part comes in. The band sounded big, it sounded loud, but it kind of sounded like Man Bear didn’t care too much about perfection, which is exactly how this sort of music is meant to be heard. Through the fuzz and mistakes the quality of the songwriting still managed to bubble to the surface, and that’s the great thing about bands like this. Good songs, powerful drums, loud guitars, and the rest takes care of itself. Or sometimes it falls off a cliff.

Either way, the trio went out at full volume and seemed to relish the gruesome moments as much as the times when they landed safely.

Now, if they could find a way to fund a decent setup for their bass player, they’d really be in business.

--Steven M. Garcia

Steven is guitarist and vocalist for Kansas City power pop trio Deco Auto. He also makes a deliciously angry salsa.