When The 2 Bears released debut ‘Be Strong’ at the beginning of 2012, UK dance music was on the cusp of a sea change that would, a few months down the line, see the 4/4 formula leave its mark on the top of the charts. In many ways, what the Bears bring to the table is far removed from that branch of the house revival, but the changing dance landscape has brought with it a fresh challenge, one that sees Raf Rundell and Joe Goddard explore new avenues in expressing what they’re about and where they’ve come from.
‘The Night Is Young’ is perhaps one of the most disparate records that you’re likely to hear. Huge piano riffs are exchanged for tight reggae stabs within the space of a track and elsewhere it flits between funky pop numbers and deeper atmospheric house. Lead track ‘Get Out’ is actually reinvented within itself, appearing as a clean electronic pop number typical of, well… Hot Chip, that’s revamped when a filthy jackin’ house beat emerges from nowhere three and a half minutes in. Some might describe it as a disregard for genre, but it would be better imagined as a collection of the styles being embraced by a big sweaty NYC Downlow bear hug, and given cohesion through that overriding feel-good sense that has made the Bears’ DJ sets so well renowned.
The feel-good exterior that shines through so brightly is, however, used in part as a mask for more sober issues. You could never accuse the Bears of downplaying context and culture and through airing their gripes withmarket capitalism and the dismantling of the NHS you can immerseyourself in the fun safe in the knowledge that this has come from theright place, and that there’s something to be said behind the mask.
It’s easy to forget, amongst the countless cockney big ups dished whilst DJing, of what Raf Rundell has to offer vocally and his soulful delivery, particularly on ‘Not This Time’ and ‘Modern Family’, is just another reason why this record is so endearing. There’s nothing groundbreaking on offer here, but there’s no way that groundbreaking was ever the intention. Instead, The 2 Bears have once again triumphed at what they do best, serving up a vibrant and joyous take on the music that has shaped them.