The 2 Bears, the duo formed by Hot Chips Joe Goddard and DJ Raf Rundell, are a rather curious proposition: you can never quite tell if they are a serious group making credible and reverential dance music or a tongue in cheek side project with a little bit of novelty value and a few good tunes. The answer on their debut album ‘Be Strong’ lies somewhere in between.
There is certainly no doubting both Goddard and Rundell’s credibility when it comes to dance music and it’s clear that they are both very much aficionados of dance music in all its forms. In direct contrast to a lot of contemporary dance music the sound of ’Be Strong’ is predominately retro, influenced by 1980s Chicago house and labels like Trax Records. There is very little experimentalism, just straight up house music, giving the album an almost constant upbeat party vibe. The retro sound can be most explicitly heard in the single ‘Work’ with its relentless piano riff and disco diva vocals. This is a single that could easily have came straight from the summer of 1988.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the album is Raf Rundell’s vocals that seem to be performed in a strange deadpan style reminiscent of Ian Dury. Rundell’s curious and mundane style gives tracks like ‘Time In Mind’ a quaint and deeply English quality, and provides a striking juxtaposition between provincial sounding vocals and upbeat dance floor anthems. It is a refreshingly charming sound that provides much of the enjoyment on ‘Be Strong’.
The album certainly does sound very impressive and its take on upbeat party dance music is infectious; however, there is a nagging feeling that something is lacking when it comes to song writing - it often veers dangerously close to pastiche. Perhaps it needs someone like Goddard’s Hot Chip partner Alexis Taylor to balance out the exuberant party music with a little bit of subtlety and song craft.
The album’s best tracks are the few moments when the pace drops, the languid, loping funk of ‘Warm & Easy’ sounds just like the title suggests and the steel drums of closing track ‘Church’ are a nice touch which brings the album to a lovely warm and uplifting close.
‘Be Strong’ may not offer any invention or progression but as a collection of exuberant, joyful and uplifting dance music it is certainly the perfect record to light up those dark winter nights and look forward to the summer, perhaps a little bit of novelty value and a few good tunes are all you need.
More like this
There’s nothing groundbreaking on offer here, but there’s no way that groundbreaking was ever the intention.