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Polar Bear Club - Clash Battle Guilt Pride (Cover Artwork)

Polar Bear Club

Polar Bear Club: Clash Battle Guilt PrideClash Battle Guilt Pride (2011)
Bridge Nine Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

"The one, and only reason this EP didn't get a perfect score is because it left me wanting it to be an album, left me so badly wanting to hear another five songs." I wrote those words five years ago about Polar Bear Club's debut EP, The Redder, The Better. Two full-lengths–2008's Sometimes .
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"The one, and only reason this EP didn't get a perfect score is because it left me wanting it to be an album, left me so badly wanting to hear another five songs."

I wrote those words five years ago about Polar Bear Club's debut EP, The Redder, The Better. Two full-lengths–2008's Sometimes Things Just Disappear and 2009's Chasing Hamburg–followed, but neither, good as they were, capitalized and expanded on the dynamism and vitriol of the debut.

Despite being on a longer format, neither felt as complete.

The Rochester, NY outfit's third LP has no such issues. Clash Battle Guilt Pride is the record that The Redder, The Better has spent the last five years hinting at. The album that expounds on every strength the quintet has always possessed.

It sounds like a simple enough concept, but PBC have made every song on this record count: There are no throwaways, no skip-necessary tracks and not a single minute that feels out of order. From the slow-building "Pawner" to the finality of "3-4 Tango", it's a constantly churning, constantly evolving opus that defies convention and categorization the same.

At the centerpiece here is "Screams in Caves", which, to prophesize, will be the Polar Bear Club song everyone remembers when the band eventually calls it quits. There's myriad reasons for such lofty praise, but look no further than the weathered pipes of singer Jimmy Stadt for the most eminent. From gruffly exclaiming "I'll take my one-man army to the streets" to crooning "It left like melting snow, but came back tough as leather," in the spellbinding refrain it's impossible not to focus on his delivery. It's a delivery with simultaneous unrest and resolve, and it's a delivery that perfectly coalesces with so many changes in sound. From the tempered riffing in the first verse to the fevered pitch reached before and after that final chorus, Stadt matches guitarists Chris Browne and Nate Morris step for step.

It'd be quite easy to lose pace or focus after such a monolith of a song, but there's no such occurrence here.

This is where Polar Bear Club has shown the most growth: They could always record a howler like "Hollow Places", but on full-lengths they could never sustain the momentum. The bridges between the previous album's best songs were always tense and close to snapping. Here, the bridges are taut and brilliantly constructed.

"My Best Days" begins centered on Stadt's vocals over minimal instrumentation, but the fault lines crack quickly and violently as some clean progressions bring out primal growls and "whoa-oh"s turn on the strength of the now-departed Emmett Menke's fills. Not only does Stadt morph his approach after the quick rolls, but Browne's arpeggios give the track yet another dimension. "I'll Never Leave New York" finds the five-piece in a more reflective demeanor, with Stadt's anguished vocals providing a perfect juxtaposition for the Saxon Shore-like undercurrents. The range of guitar sounds on the record is really something special–"Bottled Wind" is at once a crunchy, distortion-heavy affair and at next a dreamy, whimsical foray. "Slow Roam" spends the glut of its time meandering, prodding with tones usually reserved for Appleseed Cast records, but also manages to work in punches of thick, pulsating riffs. There's no set sound for any one of these tracks, and in taking this approach they fixed one of their foremost weaknesses.

The last weakness the band was able to fix? Their ability to close.

Neither previous record finished in an emphatic or memorable way. Neither record gave the listener one final salvo to take home. Clash Battle Guilt Pride, on the other hand, finishes in style with "3-4 Tango". A jaunty, kick drum-driven exposition. A crunch bass groove. A sublime vocal performance by Stadt. A churning, smoldering rhythm and a cavalcade of emotion lurches forth and intensifying drums carry the final chorus out in a fitting and satisfying end to what has been a long time coming for one of the most talented bands of the day.

It may have taken a long five years, but let there be no doubt, we've got our five more songs.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Flatliners - CavalcadeBanner Pilot - Heart Beats PacificThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangFrank Turner - England Keep My BonesTouché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and MeThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsPolar Bear Club - Chasing HamburgThe Horrible Crowes - Elsie

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
TheLastLivingKid (March 9, 2012)

Can we get a review of this album that isn't a guy jerking off over his love for the band?

lowaction (December 11, 2011)

This is my #2 this year. I just love their sound.

Midwest (December 8, 2011)

Unless some album that I'm not expecting comes out between now and January 1st and is happens to just be another Lawrence Arms record, this is my album of the year. By leaps and bounds my favorite album of 2011. Yes, leaps and fucking bounds.

evanispunx (November 3, 2011)

This is no where near as good as everyone says it is. Hell no. Although I do find Slow Roam in my head from time to time. First 5 songs and that one are gems, the rest is shit.

peheme (October 25, 2011)

This is a gem. So much better that what I've ever listened from PBC. It is a serious contender on the best album of the year.

Stocked to see a new set this saturday in Gainesville!

peheme (October 25, 2011)

This is a gem. So much better that what I've ever listened from PBC. It is a serious contender on the best album of the year.

Stocked to see a new set this saturday in Gainesville!

gugl0003 (September 29, 2011)

like this band, but every album they've put out has 4 good tracks and the rest is just forgettable.

Apeman_on_the_Moon (September 20, 2011)

I changed my mind on this record. I really like it now. Not going to go into specifics as to why, I just do.

tsiege (September 16, 2011)

Just when I think PBC couldn't get any worse than Chasing Hamburg they go and do this, and totally redeem themselves!

kevinh (September 15, 2011)

I think just about every performance on this thing is good, and the songs are well-written and catchy, but I feel like I'm missing the energy. The albums seems so subdued for such a huge portion of it that, to possibly use a somewhat childish phrase, it doesn't ROCK as much I want it to. Depending on my mood I give it between a 6 or 7/10.

Russe11 (September 15, 2011)

If Kid Dynamite is the standard by which you judge "post-hardcore," that might be a good indicator that your opinion in this thread is pretty worthless. And this is coming from someone who loves Kid Dynamite.

Michael_jackson_jordan (September 15, 2011)

I'm not trying to throw my age out there to say I'm wiser by any means, but I do understand that as we age, some music doesn't seem as desirable to us as it once was. This PBC album doesn't have the same timeless post-hardcore quality to me as say a Kid Dynamite album does. It actually doesn't at all sound much like a post-hardcore album at all with the slick production, rock star guitars and as the other "30 year old" mentioned below, an overall pop sound. If it offends you that I've fallen out of favor with PBC because they're no longer the type of band I liked them as, so be it.

Also, I didn't realize Anchors wrote this review (to which I don't understand why he or she felt the need to defend, because as a music critic myself, I know that if you truly believe in your words, then your reviews should stand for themselves and you should feel confident that they outweigh any opinions made by others afterward. That's just me, though. I'm only a dick to whiny internet characters when they're a dick to me first.)

BarleyPat (September 15, 2011)

I gotta agree w/ the others - "Convinced I'm Wrong" is incredible.

damnitsderek (September 15, 2011)

Glad you wrote the reviews for both the EP and full length, Anchors. This album is just delicious.

jamespastepunk (September 14, 2011)

Look, regardless of what the thread is about, Anchors just won it. You can stop here, guys.

Also, this record's nifty.

onegirlarmy (September 14, 2011)

It must just be an angry teenage boy thing I don't get then Anchors, because standing here as a 30 year old man who actually owns PBCs first two albums (I dug the early HWM vibe in them) this doesn't do anything for me.

And I'm standing here as a 30 year old (as of next week) woman who also owns ALL PBC releases, demo included (and shit, I even heard the demo first) and I think this is their best release since The Redder, The Better as well.

Sometimes Things Just Disappear and Chasing Hamburg were solid releases overall but each kind of lacked that "umph" of the demo and the EP. I feel like this combines the best elements of both previous full lengths while maintaining the same umph.

I just had this conversation with someone a couple weeks back. Polar Bear Club could have possibly gone in two directions - maintained the Hot Water Music similarity and kept it, keeping themselves strictly with the "Orgcore" crowd. Or, they could have made their sound go a tiny bit more on the "pop" side and widened their audience. They seem to have done the latter, but at the same time are keeping enough of the HWM/Small Brown Bike influence to not fully alienate older fans. I think they crafted that tiny bit more pop side they experimented with on Chasing Hamburg and have perfected it.

but that's just me.

Also, you're entitled to your opinions, but throwing the "I'm older and therefore wiser" remarks around, especially on just a review of a record on an Internet website, is a little much.

lmchc (September 14, 2011)

you know what this record sounds like?

capture the flag, that band on gokart a million years ago.

conduit (September 13, 2011)

I like this album but I feel like some of the later tracks are not so good. The first 4-5 songs and 3-4 Tango are all realllly awesome though. Will be catching their set at the fest.

HeresLookinAtYou (September 13, 2011)

Definitely their best since the EP.

MikexDude (September 13, 2011)

I hear the whole "all their songs sound the same" argument all the time. It is strange because the reason I love this band is that all their songs sound different.

MikexDude (September 13, 2011)

I hear the whole "all their songs sound the same" argument all the time. It is strange because the reason I love this band is that all their songs sound different.

Apeman_on_the_moon (September 13, 2011)

I listened to PBC in reverse (first Chasing Hamburg, then tried Sometimes Things Just Disappear, and then, like a year later, finally The Redder, The Better), and I have to say, I'm not really like this. It sounds like a Rise Against record or something. Every song is basically the same.

drugmoney (September 13, 2011)

this album is outstanding and thats all i'll be listening to for a while.

thismikeisapipebomb (September 13, 2011)

stay gold pussyboy.

This album is so fucking good

Michael_Jackson_Jordan (September 13, 2011)

You're a 25 year old cock sucking wannabe punk that goes to fake hardcore shows and enjoys rubbing against sweaty guys and then jacks off with them afterward with them.

robalobadob (September 13, 2011)

Please stop fighting; can't we just enjoy music?

MuhammadMormon (September 13, 2011)

I really don't get the appeal to this band. Sure, they're good at what they do, but what they're doing is sooooooooooooooooooo fucking boring.

Anchors (September 13, 2011)

You're 30 years old and calling people "pussyboy" on the internet.

Michael_Jackson_Jordan (September 13, 2011)

When I said "sounded like Nickelback" I was referring to Jimmy' voice having that Chad Kroger growl and not their music, pussyboy. Their music though doesn't fair so well either. It's way too polished this time around.

Anchors (September 13, 2011)

Angry teenage boy? I'm 25. There is still plenty of HWM influence on this record (Killin' It being the foremost example) but the fact that not every song shares that level of influence does not mean it sounds like fucking Nickleback man.

Michael_Jackson_Jordan (September 13, 2011)

It must just be an angry teenage boy thing I don't get then Anchors, because standing here as a 30 year old man who actually owns PBCs first two albums (I dug the early HWM vibe in them) this doesn't do anything for me.

popsandchips (September 13, 2011)

The reviewer read my mind on this one. I absolutely cannot get enough of it.

Anchors (September 13, 2011)

If you think this band does, at ANY point even remotely sound like Nickleback, please donate your ears to somebody that can actually make some sort of legitimate use of them.

Michael_Jackson_Jordan (September 13, 2011)

Really .org? You actually think this effort by PBC is that good? I said this in a post of one of their new songs a week or so back but I hate Jimmy's vocals this time around. He sounds like he's posturing like a rock star and after listening to the whole album, I'd have to say the slower the song, the more I get a Nickelback vibe out of them. I don't like what they've become. It doesn't sound punk, it doesn't sound hardcore. It sounds like generic wannabe arena rock.

inagreendase (September 13, 2011)

Yeah, Jordan's wrong on that one. "Convinced I'm Wrong" is absolutely killer.

bakonbeatz (September 13, 2011)

Haven't heard this yet, but I can't wait. Opinion forthcoming. Believe me, you care.

MikexDude (September 13, 2011)

Chasing Hamburg is the best closer.

laserguidedbygod (September 13, 2011)

Really about the closers? I thought "Convinced I'm Wrong" was fucking killer. Regardless, I really want to check this out even though Chasing Hamburg bummed me out. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

eatdogs (September 13, 2011)

you know, i really liked the demo PBC first put out. each release after that added to their impressive catalog but there weren't enough total standout songs that filled each release to make them "classics" except, for well maybe the ep. Still, this review was very good and it's made me really excited to finally hear this album. also, humongous props for mentioning saxon shore. that sealed the deal!!! (i sell seals for a living...)

stagedivecity (September 13, 2011)

Controversial opinion: I like Chasing Hamburg better than Sometime Things Just Disappear. Hate on it

insinceredave (September 13, 2011)

Good review, looking forward to this

Filbunke (September 13, 2011)

Can't wait to hear this album. The songs I've heard so far are really great. Expect it to be a lot better than Chasing Hamburg (wich was really good, but not fantastic)

Anchors (September 13, 2011)

I wouldn't say I'm hard on Chasing Hamburg really, I'd give that and STJD like an 8 each, but an eight was nowhere near good enough after how incredible TRTB was. I'm definitely a tough critic with this band but only because they've been one of my favorite bands for the last five years now.

MikexDude (September 12, 2011)

I am horrible at typing on phones.

MikexDude (September 12, 2011)

Good review. But I don't appreciate how hard you are on Chasing Hamburg. For me, that record has no skippable songs. Anyway, I love this record! I had tl adjust to their choice of song structures, which are a lot simpler. But this may be ome my favorite pbc record. So many great rock songs.

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