[sic] Magazine

Gold-Bears – Dalliance

Dalliance comes at you from your blind spot. It’s 2014 after all and, in the main, it’s a cuddly indie-pop album. Crucially though it avoids being the preserve of the musty-cardigan hipster. Far from it in fact because Gold-Bears, superfluous hyphen and all, breathe so much life into the flogged corpse of twee that it becomes downright rapturous, the Atlanta five-piece and their second LP lining up to shake it round with rousing drums and cymbal crashes, toasting its nostrils with feedback-laden smelling salts.

Then there’s frontman Jeremy Underwood’s sheer exuberance. Listen slack-jawed as he cannonballs between a rather decent Hutch Harris of The Thermals impression and some Scottish sounding noise-pop enthusiast. He’s often partnered by Emma Kupa of the late indie-pop band Standard Fare, the two complementing each other not unlike fellow Slumberland outfit The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s recruitment of Jen Goma, but whereas their recent Days Of Abandon was a bit wet, tracks like the righteous “From Tallahassee to Gainesville” here, which owes a sizeable debt to Doves’ indie-rock classic “Pounding”, bring to mind the time when they still had fire in their bellies.

On their 2011 debut it’s fair to say that Gold-Bears were all sugar and spice, and here the dreamy “I Hope They’re Right” does pick out a tender line of complementary acoustics, but Dalliance is a darker beast all the same. Whether or not Underwood’s marital collapse is to blame, the band’s new-found energy culminates in the self-explanatory one-minute blast “Punk Song No. 15”, a track during which their Thermals fixation comes full circle. Channelling that same enthusiasm, “Chest” and its counterpart “For You” are majestic noise-pop statements that swell with chest-bursting choruses, chimes, glockenspiel and wistful harmonies. The highly danceable latter creaks with feedback like a rusty bike careering down a winding hill. Full of youthful abandon and at the crossroads of optimism and anger it recalls the tight pop-punk of Japandroids as much as anyone.

Dalliance’s bread and butter, however, is pure fun. With hooks and catchy melodies aplenty, the urgent going-out song “Yeah, Tonight” houses a sweet back-and-forth exchange, 80s jangles hiding in its slipstream. “Death With Drums” keeps ‘em coming with a tumbling shout-along climax reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel. Even the cutesy, dangerously addictive “Hey, Sophie” gets in on the act, bouncing off some grimy estate walls high on sugar. You can practically hear the band panting as it finishes, exhausted, sweaty and with the biggest of smiles on their faces. Dalliance is the kind of album that restores you faith in indie, reminding you why you fell in love with it in the first place.

Best tracks: “Chest” and “For You”

~Dalliance is out now on Slumberland.~