Plumbiferous Media

OK Bear - Jeremy Enigk

May 17th 2009
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OK Bear - Jeremy EnigkJeremy Enigk
OK Bear
Score: 34

Jere­my Enigk has been part of three bands up until now, includ­ing The Fire Theft and the more well-known Sun­ny Day Real Estate, often cit­ed as a influ­ence on mod­ern pop-punk music. OK Bear is his third solo full-length, and it dis­plays influ­ence from each of the groups he’s worked with. Though the album itself is dis­ap­point­ing, the sad­dest part is that he doesn’t put this influ­ence to good use.

OK Bear con­tains many inter­est­ing instru­men­tal lines, includ­ing coun­ter­melod­ic gui­tar strings and inno­v­a­tive bass lines. One might won­der then why OK Bear does not deserve a sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er score. The prob­lem is that while these lines do exist, many tracks do not have these ele­ments, becom­ing soporif­i­cal­ly dull, and even when the lines do appear, they nev­er quite mesh togeth­er. Regard­less of how inter­est­ing the indi­vid­ual lines are, the tracks begin to sound like large mess­es. In fact, the only track where all the instru­ments real­ly come togeth­er is “Sand­wich Time,” where the unex­pect­ed chord pro­gres­sions, espe­cial­ly in the sec­ond sec­tion of the track, which starts near the 1:30 mark, and inter­twin­ing of gui­tar, key­board, and brass, works remark­ably well. Of course, this track is still held back by Enigk’s uncom­pelling voice and the less-than-amaz­ing lyrics sug­gest­ed by the track’s title.

Enigk’s rather dry, sharp vocals man­i­fest them­selves about three sec­onds into OK Bear, and it’s not an espe­cial­ly wel­come appear­ance. His insis­tence on stretch­ing his voice as far as pos­si­ble leads it to seem con­stant­ly strained, giv­ing the entire album an irri­tat­ing­ly over­done cast. On cer­tain tracks, such as the less-than-radi­ant “Life’s Too Short,” and “Vale Oso,” this effect becomes irk­some as it climbs to even greater promi­nence. Fur­ther under­mined by the odd sounds inter­spersed with the album, Enigk’s vocals are alter­nate­ly tire­some and impen­e­tra­ble, and always mean­der­ing.

OK Bear’s lyrics are clear­ly try­ing to be deep, and they clear­ly fail. Enigk has filled the album with odd phras­es like “late of cam­era,” and the con­fu­sion these engen­der doesn’t help to mit­i­gate the vocal issues. How­ev­er, it’s prob­a­bly a bet­ter reflec­tion on the album that such a sim­ple, rather gener­ic phrase as “just a state of mind” can be so unpleas­ant to lis­ten to - and when that’s both a track title and a line repeat­ed through the track itself, it doesn’t bode well. Enigk may seem to enjoy singing about the “mag­ic world” and the “mar­ket­place,” but it’s hard to empathize with or enjoy his lyri­cal con­structs.

With instru­men­tals, lyrics, and vocals that are all sub­op­ti­mal, OK Bear can­not be expect­ed to piece togeth­er well - and it doesn’t. The messy con­glom­er­a­tion of gui­tar, bass, drums, and key­board that per­vades many of the tracks extends to vocals as well. Mix­ing is often done odd­ly, with what might seem to be the most inter­est­ing or impor­tant line being held back by a lack of vol­ume. Last­ly, the album is so fre­quent­ly slow that it nev­er gets active enough, as sug­gest­ed by the drums that seem to yearn for a faster tem­po in “Mind Ideas,” to sup­port itself.

OK Bear is not Enigk’s strongest album; in fact, it turns out to be a slight dis­as­ter. Enigk’s vocals sound, espe­cial­ly near­ing the end of the album, more obnox­ious or annoy­ing than intrigu­ing, the lyrics fol­low suit, and the rest of the album nev­er comes togeth­er enough to res­cue the botched singing effort, or even for­give it to some degree. As a result the album leaves you with the impres­sion that even with all his expe­ri­ence, Jere­my Enigk did not quite know what he was doing.

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