Be careful what you wish for, they say, because you just might get it. If there’s one thing music aficionados crave, it’s to be surprised. And if unpredictability is a virtue, Bearsuit is rapidly approaching sainthood. You could classify them as twee-poppers, but the Norwich-based quintet makes certain you never have the slightest notion where they’re going next, even within the normally safe confines of a single song. Nobody can claim these guys are derivative, but for all the fun and originality delivered by their debut, Cat Spectacular!, the surprises can get a bit exhausting.
Though Bearsuit has largely flown under the radar in the States, the U.K. has warmed to them considerably; their four singles and their EP nabbed them a solid fan base. They’ve even landed two songs in the top five of the late John Peel’s Festive 50 lists (“Hey Charlie, Hey Chuck” in 2001 and “Itsuko Got Married” in 2003), as well as some kind support from the legendary deejay. Peel was likely drawn to their catchy yet experimental sound, displayed proudly on the album’s intro, “Welcome Bearsuit Spacehotel.” Flutes delicately fill a backdrop of noisy guitar and soaring keyboards, hinting at an airy, melodic sound.
And after the cutesy pop of “Cookie Oh Jesus,” you might even think you’ve got them pegged. You would be wrong. They follow with a grizzled, post-punk jam, “Rodent Disco,” which bangs along with some call-and-response before suddenly breaking down into a lo-fi casio keyboard beat. It’s like leading off a football game with an onside kick: The rest of the game, the defense is off-balance, not sure what to expect. Next up is “Cherryade,” a light, harmonizing pop tune — at least until the last twenty seconds, whereupon it explodes into a blast of noisy guitars and drums.
The boy-girl vocals throughout keep things playful, which is Bearsuit’s true delight — though they aim to startle, they’re also here to keep you company (think Deerhoof on happy pills). The handclapping assault of the aforementioned “Itsuko” is one such duet that eventually gets some help from stuttering guitars and steady drums — and whispered binary code aside, it’s a truly charming tune. But after a million surprises, they start to lose their effect, and you wish they would just settle down and stick with something for any amount of time. It’s tough to get mad at them for long, however. With imaginations like this, they may slap us with a bona fide gem in the future.