It’s sad to say, but if I were to follow the advice given in the title of The Bunny The Bear‘s second album, this would be a pretty short review. Although ‘If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say’ is most definitely the work of TBTB, with its dark tone and unique vocals, on the whole it’s pretty poor. At its best, it is distinctive but average. At its worst, it’s just terrible.
The album starts deceptively well (excluding the unpleasant 58 seconds of ‘Prelude To Pregnancy’) with ‘Aisle’, the album’s lead single. It is at the very least melodic, and if you can get over Matthew Tybor‘s grating scream and Chris Hutka‘s sugary clean vocals, then there is a catchy chorus at its core. The same can be said about ‘Ocean Floor’, with its sweeping keyboards and up-tempo feel. However, it isn’t long before things start to fall apart.
A key flaw is TBTB‘s schizophrenic sound. Unlike HORSE The Band, another group with a manic, hardcore/keyboard base to their noise, TBTB haven’t quite got the balance right. Where HORSE has an element of fun and a sound like an angry bear chowing down on a stack of Gameboys and pizzas, TBTB are more far erratic. Once the first three tracks are out the way, Hutka‘s vocals become more dominant and the keyboard runs get less imaginative. The appallingly named ‘It’s A Long Way From The Esophagus To The Ovaries’ is an exercise in cheesy effects and europop beats, while the entirely appalling ‘396.17’ is a ballad more reminiscent of Savage Garden than a post-hardcore mob from New York.
The album keeps this steady downward trajectory throughout, with Hutka‘s whine a constant in the mess of noise. With the right music backing him up, his voice could be an impressive asset; he can hit some great high notes and his tone is reminiscent of Coheed & Cambria‘s Claudio Sanchez. But, with Tybor shrieking in the background and a jumble of cheap keyboard voices filling out the melody, Hutka‘s distinctive vocals only adds to the irritation.
The final third of the album has a few bright spots: a satisfying sweep of keys on ‘Sympathy For The Queen Of Lies’, a memorable chorus on ‘Alley’, and a good opening to final track ‘Path’. This is about it though. But, by far the worst part of it all is the sneaking suspicion that TBTB are actually taking the whole thing very seriously. ‘If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say’ is missing that sense of reckless abandon that it really should have, and without it, TBTB just sound like a bunch of blokes making an unusual but frequently unenjoyable racket.
Written by Grant Bailey