Review: Polar Bear Club – Death Chorus

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“I’m nothing but young possibilities / And still I’m tied to the tracks of being anything” – WLWYCD, Polar Bear Club

Polar Bear Club have been a staple to the post-hardcore scene for several years now. Known for vocalist Jimmy Stadt’s rough, growling singing over rippling punk guitars has earned the group praise for years. Their chugging choruses and melodic punk have found slightly different veins on each release, but all of their albums have held steady to the same style of music. The group’s newest release, Death Chorus, is the greatest departure the group have taken from their standard sound, but possibly the most concise album the group has ever released.

The most noticeable difference between Death Chorus and the rest of Polar Bear Club’s discography is the vocals. Jimmy Stadt’s signature deep, gravely vocals have been replaced by a significantly higher pitched voice without the gurgle that he’s known for (Think the difference in Chris Connely’s voice between Saves The Day’s Stay What You Are and In Reverie, but not nearly as drastic). However, Stadt addressed this in a post on the band’s website as a natural change in his voice.

The second major difference is that the music isn’t nearly as hard or dark as it usually is. This is a very pop-punk friendly album that is hard to match up against the dark brooding of their past work, but aligns itself nicely against singles like “Light of Local Eyes”. All together, this is hands-down one of the best pop-punk albums of the year.

The album’s opener, “Blood Balloon” is arguably the most “signature” sounding song on the CD. This is your first taste of the pop sound but with the heavily slowed guitar chugs during the chorus, mixing Polar Bear Club’s heavy music with the melody of The Get Up Kids. “For Show” is destined to be a staple during live shows, bouncing the guitars in a uplifting pop that pushes the chorus to a steady crescendo.

“When We Were College Kids” is the second part of multiple songs near the end of the record that just melt into each other to form a larger piece. The song is ripe with energy and deliberate crunch of the guitar. Stadt’s choruses are backed by a smooth and constant single guitar stringing along behind him to make a killer song begging to be sung along to as loud as you can. Near the end, “Upstate Mosquito” is perhaps the biggest surprise on the record though, as it is the most straight forward punk song, charging ahead like an early Saves The Day or Lifetime song.

This new sound isn’t meant to be an insult to long time fans; it’s the soundtrack to the lyrical theme of the album. Where their past albums have been brooding and lyrically vague, Death Chorus is direct, powerful and full of hope. These are songs to instill hope and the will to fight for yourself in what almost feels like a rivalry to The Wonder Years.

Death Chorus marks a new direction for Polar Bear Club, aligning themselves with the pop of their past singles without losing focus or power. They’ve crafted a pop-punk record that will take many bands in that genre to school, and all the better for it.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Polar Bear Club stream new album “Death Chorus”

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Rochester, N.Y. post-hardcore band Polar Bear Club is streaming their new album Death Chorus over at Red Bull’s website. Check it out.

Death Chorus is set to release next Tuesday on Rise Records and is a follow-up to 2011’s Clash Battle Guilt Pride. Like what you hear? You can preorder the album on iTunes.

Check out the band’s new video for “WLWYCD” below:

Taking Back Sunday gets aid from a friend on fall tour

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Say what you want about the post-punk scene over the course of the last decade and how the music has changed, the fans have become self-entitled and the scene itself has fallen victim to a plague of self-indulgent and falsely conceited “rock stars.” It often seems easier to point out the flaws while ignoring the successes and forgetting the point of why we love this music in the first place. At its core, a large part of the music experience is about community – and that’s something that this scene has always triumphed in.

A perfect example of this is the recent addition of former Underoath vocalist Spencer Chamberlain to Taking Back Sunday’s lineup in light of the early an unexpected birth of Adam Lazzara’s son. Faced with a family emergency and the real possibility of cancelling the majority of their fall tour, Lazzara instead reached out to Chamberlain, a contemporary and close friend, to fill his role.

This act itself, accompanied with the welcoming response from the band’s fans, speaks volumes about the community and friendship that this scene thrives on. Case in point, the tour’s recent stop in Louisville, Ky., was a raucous and lively affair and featured a crowd well equipped to back up the band and Chamberlain at every turn.

The tour’s openers include Boston rockers Transit and post-hardcore up-and-comers Polar Bear Club. If you have yet to experience a Polar Bear Club set in person, you’re truly missing out on one of the most enjoyable live performances around. Vocalist Jimmy Stadt has the unique and valuable ability to transform a group of bystanders into a lively rock-show crowd with his on-stage antics and passionate delivery.

This warm-up was appropriate in setting the stage for Taking Back Sunday, a band who has a long history of putting on memorable performances. There doesn’t seem to be many one-time-only attendees to a Taking Back Sunday show. Fans of this band come back again and again to relive these songs. There’s something both nostalgic and relevant about this band’s music that allows it to live on as meaningful today as it did when they first released Tell All Your Friends over a decade ago.

Any hesitancy about Chamberlain’s ability to convey these songs vanishes upon the opening notes to “You Know How I Do”. In fact, throughout the night, the crowd seems even louder than you might expect – both in excitement of the uniqueness of the event and, when necessary, in an effort to aid Chamberlain. It’s no small feat to perfect vocals to 13 songs on such short notice, even though you can tell he’s sung along to many of them on long car rides, just like the rest of us.

Hearing Chamberlain belt out fan favorites like “Set Phasers to Stun”, “MakeDamnSure” and “Cute without the ‘E’” with a roaring crowd behind him is just as special as seeing John Nolan sing lead on an old Straylight Run song (“Existentialism on Prom Night”) and a recent TBS track (“Best Places to Be a Mom”). Throughout the performance, it’s clear that the band is grateful to a willing Chamberlain, that he is honored to be a part of the event and that the crowd is accepting and supportive of the situation. In short, the spirit of the night is just good.

It’s in moments like these that we remember why this music is so important to us to begin with. Not only does it speak to us privately and personally, but it connects us with those around us and perpetuates a shared experience that keeps us coming back. The bond created by music is one that is both unique and timeless. It’s because of this that we’re able to enjoy the experience, no matter who is behind the mic.

Transit

Transit

Polar Bear Club

Polar Bear Club

Spencer Chamberlain

Spencer Chamberlain

John Nolan (Taking Back Sunday)

John Nolan (Taking Back Sunday)

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his imaginary pet, Hand Dog.  You can follow him on Twitter.