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Bear's Den - Red Earth & Pouring Rain (Album Review)

Monday, 01 August 2016 Written by Graeme Marsh

Bear’s Den released their debut LP, ‘Islands’, in 2014 through Communion, a label partly owned by the band’s Kevin Jones alongside Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett and producer Ian Grimble. A largely well received folk-pop effort, the record drew inevitable comparisons with Lovett’s band, whom they had supported on a number of occasions.

Two years on, with Bear’s Den newly trimmed to comprise Jones and Andrew Davie, its follow up, ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, has arrived and again it’s hard to ignore the Mumfords similarities. Moving on from their folky roots, this collection marks a significant change of course akin to how ‘Wilder Mind’ took Lovett and company into electric territory.

This transition is now becoming well worn, with Ben Howard and Matthew & The Atlas also following the same turn to good effect in recent times, but the title track here paints a different picture. It’s one where the War on Drugs attempt to play AOR or, worse still, jam with Tina Turner’s band for a Mad Max theme.

Somehow, Bear’s Den make it work, with the electric guitar work of particular note. Emeralds is cut from the same cloth, but its quietly impressive guitars are a far cry from the talents of Adam Granduciel.

It becomes quickly evident that relationships will engulf the album. Its lyrics bemoan a broken coupling continuously, from a cry of “I love you more than you’ll ever know” during the anthemic New Jerusalem, to “you’ll always be the love of my life” on the Coldplay-like easy listening of Roses On A Breeze.  The tedious Love Can’t Stand Alone, meanwhile, resorts to downright self-pity: “I closed my eyes and heard you leave.”

Auld Wives breaks away from past loves and takes on the loss of Davie’s grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in a strong track. Greenwoods Bethlehem, too, is a scintillating cut that revels in a synth-soaked conclusion and a spot of folky acoustic finger plucking.

Broken Parable and Fortress both return to the lovelorn misery well to good effect, with the former reminiscent of Matthew & The Atlas thanks to bubbly synths, a punishing beat and slight brushing of horns. The latter goes one better, with its own finale also leaning on brass for its massive, forlorn finish. Finally, the records’s parting shot, Napoleon, desperately clutches at the embers of the romance, hoping “it’s not too late to mend”.

With a sense of personal failure within a relationship bleeding through most of the 12 tracks here, many will find the subject matter overbearing. But for those curled up in bed after being dumped, there will be a very real connection.

Bear's Den Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue November 01 2016 - BRIGHTON Dome
Wed November 02 2016 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Thu November 03 2016 - GLASGOW O2 ABC
Fri November 04 2016 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat November 05 2016 - NORWICH UEA
Tue November 08 2016 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Wed November 09 2016 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol

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