Spacebear is a high-octane power trio hailing from Texas and their guitar-based attack on Straight for the Sun will leave a mark on listeners. The band advertises themselves as an outfit just as apt to make you laugh as they will make you think, but it will be deliciously difficult for many listeners to disengage from the band’s impressive playing long enough to digest any messages. The typical knock on power trios is how lacking a second guitarist leaves an enormous hole in a band’s sound. It isn’t the case here. You’ll finish listening to Straight for the Sun slightly incredulous at how all encompassing they sound.
“Without You” kicks off as a partial nod to the band’s melodic rock inclinations, but later passages turn in another direction. The climatic guitar solo, for instance, is an enraged and splintered blast of sound lending a completely new intensity to an already edgy rock track. “Blue” brings the same mix of romping energy and melodic virtues to a socially conscious lyric. The occasional harmony vocals further sweeten the pot, but the burning heart of this song’s success lies with drumming that never risks self-indulgence. Spacebear takes a handful of risks here that illustrate their high-caliber musicianship. “Echoes Of Sunday” breaks with the style of the opening songs for a turn into piano balladry. Make no mistake however – this isn’t some forlorn ode to lost love or an avowal of fidelity. Instead, it’s a mature and thoughtful piece roomy enough to encapsulate big picture emotions with considerable melodic grace. “Electric Sheep” is a nod to the sci-fi giant Philip K. Dick, specifically his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It’s a musical turn back to the band’s customary guitar based attack. Some may find the interlocking vocal and guitar melody during the verses a bit tiresome after the first minute, but their transitions are compelling and the song’s bridge unexpectedly takes on an airy, progressive slant.
Another dramatic and entertaining track is “Hope’s Gone”. It’s not a particularly uplifting message, but the moody guitar work and strong vocals are highlights. Spacebear don’t use many harmony vocals, but when they do like here, it’s another difference maker that moves this from good to great. The EP’s final song, “Constellation”, starts off with intriguingly atmospheric percussion soon joined by jangling electric guitar shorn of much of their earlier distorted bite. They build this track magnificently and the rising tension pays off a number of times through the track. Straight for the Sun is an impressive effort – Spacebear keep their eye on the ball and turn in a focused collection of concise guitar-based songs that still manages to sound expansive and ambitious. They sport no obvious influences and succeed in carving out a comfortable niche for themselves as purveyors of melodic guitar rock with a twist. This is a real sleeper of a release and deserves much attention.
9 out of 10 stars.