» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Cat Spectacular!
Microindie Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

April 18, 2005
'Twee' is not a word you'd find in the dictionary, but most of us can agree on what it means, in general: small, precious, simplified… jangly, melodic, sugary… the best examples can range from Heavenly to the Softies to the Teacups, but you basically get pop nuggets in small, oh-so-cute form.

Bearsuit are definitely twee. They've got the lo-fi dynamics and boisterous "wee"-ness to prove it - but they are twee like you've never heard before.

There's a lot going on on Cat Spectacular! - some would argue too much. It's noisy. I happen to like twee (in small doses), and I've never heard twee so raucous or loud. They band is twee with so much going on in the background, you can sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture, or the melody, or where the heck the song is going. And I have a feeling that's just the way Bearsuit likes it.

Cat Spectacular! is confusing and innovative. It's maddeningly difficult to wrap your head around, but when you contrast that with all of the things twee is supposed to be, it's really an accomplishment. When have you ever listened to an album of twee and been completely perplexed by it? Like the style or not, twee is easily absorbable - not Bearsuit.

I don't quite know which touchstones are most appropriate, even after several listens, so I'll list a few: Buffalo Daughter, the Silver Jews, Deerhoof, Pizzicato Five, Sweep the Leg Johnny, maybe a little Bunnygrunt - all in a mental ward, screaming bloody murder (and singing "la la la") as they crash their heads into the padded walls.

What's more confusing is that, aside from all of the destruction, there are some very lovely bits of indie pop interspersed, just enough to let you know that Bearsuit is entirely capable of creating a complete album of just that but they choose not to.

Track two, "Cookie Oh Jesus," is set there on purpose, without a doubt. After a fuzzy, wild instrumental opening, you get two minutes and fifty-seven seconds of cookie cutter twee. "Cookie Oh Jesus" is what you're expecting before you hear the rest. It's the sonic equivalent of being razzed, really; they're calling us all suckers.

"Rodent Disco" is our first taste of the madness, and if you didn't know what a Rodent Disco sounded like before, Bearsuit was kind enough to supply a soundtrack. False, slide-whistle style sirens zip up and down over the vocals, providing chalkboard-scratching distraction. It's hyperpaced as the British tones of the lead singer's voice give off a false sense of ease, repeating the verse?/chorus? until he's fulfilled that duty. Then, we're given an electric breakdown of video game music to roll around, salivating on the dance floor.

Next, "Cherryade" is actually beautiful Belle and Sebastian style pop, its placement the cause of smirking laughter. This is the track most of us will love - and that's why there's only one of it on the album.

"Going Steady" could be a twee anthem if it didn't have such a surprising stop-start dynamic, halting all at once, then moving into an Elephant 6 medley, then crashing into freaky noise. This is where the label 'art-punk' becomes most applicable.

And when you put it in that framework, even if you've never heard anything like it, you start to understand it. "Itsuko Got Married" is an absolute gem of art-punk: busy, lively, not entirely distancing but still way out there. It's a Disney song for worker bees, a "Step in Time," if you will, for the Jeepster crowd. Chants of ones and zeroes bound about until it ends in a lofty singalong, wrapping everything up quite cordially. In opposition, then, I'd swear "Prove Katie Wrong" features the sound of friendly little cartoon dentist drills and "Kiki Keep Me Company" has been touched by demons.

There's more, oh God, there's more, but it's a lot to take in. It's ingenious, and you'll likely despise them. John Peel loved this band, likely because he'd heard it all as a profession and Bearsuit breaks every mold. Their art is to be respected, and I, for one, enjoy it most from that particular observation deck. It's great, and difficult, and I still don't quite know what just happened.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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