The Noise (Boston) – Review of This is What Bears Look Like Underwater

 

THE CHANDLER TRAVIS THREE-O 
This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater 

14 tracks

On opening track “Little Things,” which sets the tone for much of what is to follow, it seems like Fred Boak, John Clark, Berke McKelvey, and Chandler Travis don’t so much rock out as commit acts of vaguely rock-like instrumental pop which are not quite like anything you’ve ever heard before, unless you happen to be inordinately fond of spacy ’70s jazz pianists, obscure late ’60s prog-rock, and even more obscure ’50s instrumental exotica—and maybe not even then. The closest comparison would involve a mellow, yawning Bizarro World version of the instrumental tracks on Pet Sounds. The introspectively whimsical and goofy exotica of “Camel, Passing Through The Eye of a Needle” is another prime example of this tendency, as are the instrumental tracks “Zoe” and “Stuck.” “January” (by Chandler Travis and David Greenberger) seems more like Harry Nilsson circa The Point, or maybe Robyn Hitchcock in the whimsical mode of “I Got a Message for You.” “Born to Disappear” is also reminiscent of a heartfelt Hitchcock number like “Globe of Frogs” or even Rod Stewart’s “Handbags and Gladrags.” “Take Me With You” (by Travis and Greenberger) is a spare, minimalistic love song; a mode which, by now, is a Travis Chandler specialty; ditto the inimitably sardonic “The Person You Deserve.” The goofy scatting vocal jazz of “One Step Forward” varies the pace, as do the NRBQ and Beatles covers. But it’s not all inimitably delicious Chandler Travis style weirdness: I point to the Best of Show: “Make the Small Things Pretty,” also by Travis and Greenberger. Here is a song which is very much in the laid-back but jangly pop mode of past Chandler Travis masterpieces (and I don’t use the word ironically). It’s a pop song with the damndest sense of dynamics I’ve ever heard, flowing along at an easygoing pace—so easygoing!—and with lush melodic breaks which slow the pace even further, yet somehow it works brilliantly, mostly due to the irresistibly chiming hook in the main guitar line. It’s a song every bit as risky and rewarding as a Brian Wilson confection like “The Little Girl I Once Knew.” Nearly as great is the inimitably loping, gorgeously melodic and impeccably constructed toe-tapper “Paper Roses.” The astonishing thing about this record is that the pace is mostly slowed way down, yet the melodic values are so strong that on the best numbers you can hardly bring yourself to stop tapping your feet all the same.           (Francis DiMenno)

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