Bearings' first official full-length, Exist.Expire, is an incredibly thorough practice in contrast. Everything about it seems to contradict itself in some roundabout way, but ultimately these contrasts result in a strong and foreboding debut.
For starters, the band's biggest influence seems to be Small Brown Bike. But instead of hearkening back to the raw, charged punk rock of that band's own debut, Our Own Wars, or looking to the effects pedal-laden, melancholic prod of The River Bed, the band do both...in a sense. The production tone on this is a little bit thin and just plain rough, and their vocalist young, raspy and a bit underdeveloped (à la Wars), but the way the band carry themselves through these mostly four-minute endeavors is with a steadily forlorn, relatively sad manner with ringing guitars (River Bed style).
Then there's the length, of course. For a full-length, seven songs seems scant--and one of them's an interlude! But for what the band does, that length seems appropriate--the band just sounds deliberate as hell navigating their way through these songs. Almost too much, really--opener "Tenement" is a redux of the same song that appeared on a split 7" with Pswingset earlier this year, and this re-record of an already mid-tempo jam is slower and more paced. I understand the need to have some restraint when trying to come up with a good take, but the band really just sound too careful, and the earlier version is the superior one as a result.
Still, with nothing else to compare to as far as the rest of Exist.Expire goes, there's an endurance to the record that digs deep. "Of Translations" features a mournful guitar tone and bleak, heartbreaking vocals searching for meaning within vague reflections ("Will I ever choose my way? / Like you promised when I was a boy with nothing but your word. / Will things ever be the same? / Will they ever be the way that they are in my mind? / Because I cannot see straight."). "Like Clockwork" has a fluid pacing for all the band's tempo moderation, but still captures that chilling, tense atmosphere that makes you want to fast-forward in time to when this band may be writing absolute classics.
That's another thing: There's the title. Exist.Expire very well seems like foreshadowing for the kind of band that produced it: a minor-key post-hardcore punk one. And while the album itself is pretty good in the now, it musically suggests a band full of far greater potential. Bearings sound ready to take the quietly creative and haunting tendencies present on this album and eventually bust them wide open with a sharper recording and more powerful songs should they choose to exist any longer. Choose life, guys.