Polar Bear Club - The Summer of George [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)

Polar Bear Club

The Summer of George [7 inch] (2009)

Bridge Nine

I first got hit with the Polar Bear Club bug at a church basement show in some suburb of Boston. Looking back, it was a pretty stunning lineup, with PBC supporting its now classic EP The Redder, The Better, and playing alongside the hugely under-hyped Capital, Thieves and Assassins, Transit and the unfortunately disbanded McClane. Even with a stellar lineup like that, PBC stole the show with their mix of high-energy power and catchy flawless execution. While not sonically reminiscent, their presence reminded me of the power Thursday had during the Full Collapse days, with the audiences hanging on every word and move of the bands' respective frontmen. I picked up the EP that night and for me it quickly became the soundtrack of that summer.

Fast-forward to now. Having gone full-time, released a full-length that garnered them a bigger fanbase, a jump to the suddenly pop-punk Bridge Nine label, and expectations couldn't be higher. For me, their first full-length, Sometimes Things Just Disappear was a grower. Their debut EP was an instant classic, but the full-length didn't make sense upon first listen. Much of the blatant anthemizing was gone and the peak moments were fewer and in stranger places, like at the exact beginning of the song ("Our Ballads") or buried three to four minutes in ("Convinced I'm Wrong"). Upon repeated listening, the subtle hooks showed themselves and the near-perfect mix of melody and aggression eventually won me over.

With this teaser EP, which is likely a Seinfeld reference, Bridge Nine gives us two cuts from the forthcoming Chasing Hamburg LP and a B-side. In much the same way that STJD didn't hit me right away, the EP follows that same path, with songs that are at first impression passable, but reveal their depth upon further listens.

Opener "Living Saints" starts out in straightforward PBC fashion with angular major key guitar lines and a catchy first line from vocalist Jimmy Stadt. The song barrels along with lyrics lamenting the changes that friendships go through as people age that focuses on the hook, "growing up isn't moving on."

The second track, "Dead Man" is the non-album B-side and it makes sense because it's a good song, but no classic for sure. For a PBC song there are mostly no surprises except that during the verse, Stadt sounds a little like Billie Joe Armstrong. It seems that after touring a good deal for the past year, he's gained even more control of his voice and can shift quickly between the three to four "voices" he uses. It's definitely a skill and a useful one at that, but when pushed to its limit can sound disjointed.

The closer, "Boxes" is a critical musing on the attitude of successful musicians, culminating in the line, "You don't have to be an asshole to be an artist." With lines like "When we were young we'd watch our idols act above it all. Invented introverts all fighting for the sake of not looking like us. Don't forget who you need, yeah, we paid your way," the lyrics are startlingly straightforward, similarly to the aforementioned "Our Ballads." The melody and feel of the chorus definitely treads some new ground for the band, but overall, the song maintains the same mix of parts that has served them well in the past.

Featuring only one song that won't be on the full-length, this is probably not a must-have release except for die-hard fans. However, as an indication of their new album, but for the tighter arrangements and more varied melodic approach, it is a good sign that PBC is staying the course of their last album.