Reviews

Indiecater - Sunbear re-issue

"Back in the mid-90's Sunbear were touted as future kings but in the end it all came to naught. Wasn't for the lack of quality output however as their debut album remains an incandescent example of a young band pulling out all the stops to dramatise what was buzzing around their heads. 'Sunbear' was a remarkable achievement that pushed the boundaries in an already vibrant indie scene in Dublin at the time. Sadly a miniscule marketing budget didn't help and despite numerous replays of 'Notebook' on RTE's seminal 'No Disco' programme 'Sunbear' faded from view. Of course the boys from Sunbear went on to form the very much alive and thriving Ruby Tailights so who are we to rule out a one-off 'Sunbear' extravaganza. Many thanks to Paddy and Martin for their efforts in making the reissue of this important record possible."

 

mp3hugger - Sunbear "Somebody Change The Season"

When the band found this song amongst the dust of a decades old master tape the memories came flooding back. Little band from Dublin on the cusp of something big, major’s knocking down their door, big name producer in the studio doing his thing with their magical creations. But like so many almost could have beens before them things ultimately fell apart. ‘Somebody Change The Season’ hurts more than most, despite sounding to these ears like recovered bullion it pains Sunbear’s 4 players. Apparently the big name turned out to be a big so-and-so and amongst the fallout gems like this lay undiscovered. It took the bright endeavour of one of the 4 to make the MBVesque sweetness see the light of day. For students of shoegaze it’s an exercise in hearing it from the masters. As you’d expect I still haven’t stopped salivating. KD

 

mp3hugger - Sunbear "Leadbelt"

I don’t get giddy that often but on occasion during crucial World Cup qualifiers or when I hear a classic track I tend to lose all grown up reason. This affliction has been happening a good bit of late and I’ll put it down to all of the reissues on our indiecater label (as well as Ireland’s hopeless attempts to play properly). The latest is from Dublin band Sunbear and is called ‘Bits’ because it collects a couple of their hard to find EP’s (‘Bits and Pieces’ and ‘Dog’) and some unreleased tracks from the mid 1990’s. To tell you I was in 7th heaven when I heard this was going to happen is an understatement because Sunbear are truly one of my favourite bands ever (you can still hear/see them in their current incarnation as the Ruby Tailights) and ‘Leadbelt’ is close to being my favourite track by them. It comes straight out of the blocks and then slowly descends into off-kilter greatness. You’ll hear MBV, Ride and Sonic Youth but most of all you’ll hear a young Dublin band in experimental free flow while never forgetting that most people are visiting to hear a classic piece of tuneage. KD

 

mp3hugger - Sunbear "Resin"

There are about 10 Irish albums that I return to in times of need. One of those is the eponymous debut from Dublin band Sunbear. This was a quartet that seemed to be going places fast. Melding the finer points of shoegaze with subtle melodies the album still sounds utterly contemporary despite its almost teenage years. Take ‘Resin’ with its scuzzy guitar parts and Martin Kelly’s clean vocals, which combine to form a nugget of indie genius. Along with In Motion Sunbear formed a powerful fulcrum in the Dublin music scene in the mid-nineties but neither achieved the prominence that their music ultimately deserved. Martin Kelly has a job on his hands with his new band Ruby Tailights to outshine Sunbear but from what I’ve heard of their debut album ‘Dressing Up’ things could get a whole lot rosier in the near future. KD

 

mp3hugger - Sunbear "Things To Do"

Here’s a perfect slice of fuzzy guitar pop by Dublin 'should have beens' Sunbear. Their debut from 1994 was awash with fragile melodies that were hounded to within an inch of their lives by an army of ransacking riffs. Of course the noise had plenty of purpose but it camouflaged what a brilliant songwriter Martin Kelly was. If you need pointers for their sound, think Ride, early My Bloody Valentine with a dash of the learning to walk Boo Radleys. ‘Things To Do’ is quintessentially indie with its grainy production, cascading guitars and vocals that remain just out of lazy earshot. It bears all the ingredients of an underground classic. Sunbear were non-conformist, where else would you hear a debut album that has a 20 minute recording of some street noises tacked on at the end. I once asked Kelly why he did that and he replied that he thought it was a cool thing to do. Ah, the eccentricity of genius. KD

 

mp3hugger - Sunbear "Flutterbye"

We've loved Sunbear for many years so it is a real honour to be able to offer their debut album on our sister site indiecater. Sunbear were a quartet from Dublin who appeared in the wake of shoegaze and adopted much of the genre's dynamics to create a truly lush sound. They may have been loud but Sunbear never lost their sense of melody, which is all pervasive throughout the album. As there was only ever one thousand copies of 'Sunbear' printed it did not cast a very wide net when released in 1994 but now thanks to a different sort of net altogether we are hoping that a wider audience will embrace it. 'Flutterbye' is perhaps the most straight forward piece of music on the album, an effervescent dollop of dream pop with ethereal vocals and fluid instrumentation. It's a lovely taster for what is a gorgeous album. If you like what you hear you should visit indiecater where you can listen to the whole album as many times as you like! KD

 

mp3hugger - Sunbear "Flutterbye"

Some things just weren’t meant to be, no matter how beautiful the creation. Sunbear were a short-lived quartet from Dublin who produced a spellbinding album and follow up EP way back in the mid nineties. Martin Kelly was the lead vocalist with the choirboy dream pop tonsils who could propel the jangling instrumentation into the realms of greatness. Of course, that greatness was under appreciated despite a pocket of critical love. One wonders how they would fare in an internet age where a small budget doesn’t necessarily hinder the distribution possibilities. ‘Flutterbye’ is a fey runaway, infested by a melancholic disposition yet ripe with possibilities. You’ll cherish the innocence and in an effort to embrace the sadness softly pinch its rosy cheek. KD

 

indiecater.com - Bits And Pieces EP - January 2005

"‘Be awful tentative in awarding greatness to an Irish single as patriotic zeal can elevate an ordinary tune into the realms of pop heaven', once warned my ultra clued-in grandmother. No such charge of nepotism could ever be levelled at Sunbear (named after an exhibit in a ‘Dead Zoo’!) however, because this e.p. was one of 1996’s shining lights. Like their debut album there were only 1000 copies ever issued.

Stretching over 23 minutes the e.p. contains enough artistic directions to fill an entire album. After the sublime wonderfulness of their eponymous debut album, this follow up set its sights on new heights of sonic excellence. 'Leadbelt' the lead track is Ride at their glorious peak with a hint of Sonic Youth thrown in for good measure. The second track 'Seeing Stars' reverts to blueprint Sunbear, crashing guitars creating a pile up of sound with just enough room to squeeze in a Martin Kelly’s searing vocal. At some point, the inevitable happens as your aural taste buds reach saturation level, unable to absorb even the clang of a rusty triangle, but hey that's what the pause button was invented for.

'Bits' (that's bits that float around when you close your eyes) kicks in uneasily with the effortless grace of a Pavement record, but where Pavement merely amble Sunbear find direction in a hook that generates a heart warming climax and perfectly illustrates the message the song was created for. The fourth track 'Each To Their Own' is simplicity personified, like a Delgados outtake and you know how precious they are. There is even room for a bonus track, a feedback drenched take on ‘Bits’.

Sunbear (and much of the Dublin scene they inhabited in the mid nineties, read Rollerskate Skinny, In Motion, The Sewing Room & Whipping Boy) could have been something. But they weren’t, despite some brief acclaim on the peoplesound website in 2000 (the Dog e.p.) it just wasn’t to be. As a minor consolation and as the bear bones turn in their grave this e.p. is awarded greatness.

 

Dublin Event Guide (23 November 1994)]

This actually came as a big, and decidedly pleasant surprise.

Sunbear have been messing around with sonic experimentation for some time, with varying degrees of success and recognition, but they will never be noted (in my mind anyway) as great men for the old pop consciousness.

Well, Sunbear's self titled debut, while duly nailing their leftfield credentials to the wall, also delivers melodic value for money. The Byrds, maybe, the Cocteau Twins, definitely, even the Beatles "Abbey Road" (The harmonising on 'Resin') all spring to mind amidst the swirl of guitars, especially throughout the first half of the album, entitled "Opening Notes".

The ghost of Spiritualized appears on 'Centre Page', a spiraling meandering ambient drone which would grace the chill out zone of any indie club, while bizarre blasts of noise blurt out as the album progresses onto "Closed Book".

Sometimes the the thing is a bit too self-consciously inward looking, and certainly I could have done without the thirty minutes of traffic noises that close the disc (I shit thee not!) but I look forward to Sunbear's next publication.

MH

 

Hot Press - 30 November 1994

BEAR NECESSITIES

LAPPING, lapping, lapping. Swishing, swishing, swishing. Crashing, crashing, crashing. In and around you. Out on the fringes, where a guitar note swishes and stretches and reaches. Spread like a wish, like a dream, like hope itself....

Youth and energy and the willingness to experiment. And innocence. And sincerity. Filled with all these ingredients. Burned on the horizon, the ashes drank by the ocean. The Sunbear rises and looks skywards.

Tell us an electric fairytale. Give us our daily feedback and let us out to play. Draw the line between that boyish voice and that distortion. That distortion unleashed to ravage the fine melody. To devour devour it and to throw it up as something new. But it's back again. Every time, after the attack, it resurfaces as if it were never touched. And yet the song is all in flux, veering between honey and starvation, between normality and madness.
The words are lost as they swim. Now and then they rise for breath and you hear them sing that: "Your life is not your own /Your life is not your own". Other times you hear them hum that: "Sitting by the side of the bed/Saying all the thing that you said/Oh I read them once and then I turn away/Gonna save my sorrows for some other day." (Something To Dream Of)

The melancholy side of first love. But the music makes sure that it is never down. Full and inspired by the likes of Sonic Youth and the Byrds, Sunbear wed that pure Byrds-like high intensity pop melody to the wild and divergent surges of amped up craziness. They hold to the pure and then take it to some limits.

'Centre Page' goes down an instrumental avenue. Ambient, it meanders and you can imagine the countless images that its video might give birth to. It's a beautiful piece; some kind of spiritual. And this is a really beautiful and moving debut from a young Dublin band who have had the courage and belief to put their own money behind what in every sense is a superb product (the album cover has real style).

There used to be a sign on O'Connell Street about Dublin being the musical capital of the world. I thought it was an utter load of crap at the time. Dublin will never be able to claim such an arrogant title, but with bands like Sunbear and Wormhole it has certainly produced two of the best albums I've heard this year.

Gerry McGovern

 

Hot Press - July 1995

SINGLE OF THE FORTNIGHT

Sunbear make big bold and very beautiful music. Here, the guitars crash and grind while Martin Kelly sounds like a lost innocent on vocals, pitching them somewhere between Ride and The Smashing Pumpkins.

They keep a firm grip on melody, however, and even though the arrangements are elaborate, they never loose the plot. With a track called 'Bits (that float around when you close your eyes)' they could be accused of eyelid gazing, but we won't hold that against them.

The above along with the rollicking 'Leadbelt' and the melancholic beauty of 'Seeing Stars' do more than enough to justify the coveted Single Of The Fortnight slot.

John Walshe

 

Road Records "Sunbear" - March 1998

"Sunbear's debut album was released in 1994 on the BearBones label and since then the band have grown into one the most consistent live draws around.. We are still waiting for a follow-up though. They also run the groovy "It's Not Your Birthday" club (now moved to Columbia Mills) where punters can dance away to Joe Dolan hits of yesteryear."

Hugh McCabe

 

Sunbear web-site: December 1994

"It's been a few years now, since a friend of a friend encouraged me to venture toward my first Sunbear gig. I wasn't really that keen , but I went along anyhow. It didn't take me long to recognise the seed that was to grow into one of Dublin's finest bands in years. If you've heard them already, you know I speak the truth. If you haven't heard them yet, you should get your ass in gear. If you don't get your ass in gear you're gonna hear them pretty soon whether you want or not."

"Begin your love affair; before your soul deserts you because you've been starving it of the one thing it really needs: Sunbear."

 

peoplesound Rezension

"Dog" beginnt als melancholische Ballade und endet als frischer Britpop-Knaller. Das Album "Sunbear" ist 1996 entstanden, während die gleichnamige irische Gitarrenband bereits seit sieben Jahren aktiv ist. Es wird Zeit, dass die vier Jungs aus Dublin sich endlich aufrappeln, die Welt zu erobern! Fans von experimentiellem Indie-Rock-Pop dürften an Sunbear ihre Freude haben.

Translated by Google:

"Dog" begins as a melancholy ballad and ends as a fresh blast of Britpop. The album 'Sunbear' was created in 1996, while the eponymous Irish guitar band active for seven years. It is time that the four lads from Dublin recover finally, to conquer the world! Fans of indie-rock-pop experimental development are likely to have their joy Sunbear.

 

Irish Times - Missed by Morrissey - November 25 2000

"...Absurdly, it was a case of a late arrival a Dublin venue, Whelans, that enabled the former Smiths' frontman to see Sack. In Dublin for the sale of his house, he initially aimed to see a different band, Sunbear, support act to Sack on the night, but between one thing and another Mozzer missed the support and stayed for Sack. The resulting meeting snagged support slots on a three month Morrissey tour of Europe and the US west coast. Cue a rise in public profile among people who had never heard of Sack, performances in front of up to 5,000 people a night, sales of T-shirts and albums the like of which they'd never experienced - and being greeted with the endearing "Sack you're the bomb" by eager-beaver Morrissey fans in Los Angeles."

Tony Clayton-Lea

 

IRISH TIMES

Various Artists: Abstraction Of Sound Logic (Folkrum)

Folkrum is a new independent label which offers an alternative to the clichés so pivotal to mainstream Irish rock. No sweeping soundscapes, no Celtic wibbling and no manufactured pop, just a collection of "slo-fo" oddities by such wilfully obscure acts as Simple Folk, Null Set and Moon Palace. Listening to Capratone's Non- Local or Chris McKibbon's Local Boy, you'd swear that all Irish bands were obsessed with American alt. country; Sunbear's Poke My Side and The Sound Of Bells' Worldwept, however, suggest a wider range of influences. If you're allergic to intense young people with acoustic guitars, then Sean's Still Love and Aoife Faughnan's Ever There may have you breaking out in hives; but check out the quasi-experimental attitude of Happy Stack's Breathe and The Mighty Avon Jr's Rapture Me Now.

Kevin Courtney

 

dooyoo.co.uk - BITS AND PIECES EP

"Piece De Resistance"

'Be awful tentative in awarding greatness to an Irish single as patriotic zeal can elevate an ordinary tune into the realms of pop heaven', once warned my ultra clued-in grandmother. No such charge of nepotism is ever likely to be levelled at Sunbear however, as they released one of the e.p's of 1996. Stretching over 23 minutes it contains enough artistic directions to fill an entire album.

After the sublime wonderfulness of their eponymous debut album, the new material set its sights on new heights of sonic excellence. 'Leadbelt' the lead track is Ride at their glorious peak with a hint of Sonic Youth thrown in for good measure. The second track 'Seeing Stars' reverts to blueprint Sunbear, crashing guitars creating a pile up of sound with just enough room to squeeze in a plaintiff vocal. At some point, the inevitable will occur as your musical taste buds reach saturation level, unable to absorb even the clang of a rusty triangle, but hey that's what the pause button was invented for.

'Bits' (that's bits that float around when you close your eyes) kicks in uneasily with the effortless grace of a Pavement record, but where Pavement merely amble Sunbear find direction in a hook that generates a heart warming climax and perfectly illustrates the message the song was created for. The fourth track 'Each To Their Own' is simplicity personified and is the perfect antidote to what preceded it.

All in all there is enough evidence on show to prove that Sunbear are worthy bets for the next big thing. As the bear bones turn in their grave, this truly great Irish single is awarded greatness.

4/5