by brian kagel (kegs1287) - Oct 01, 2007
Billy Harvey - Bearsick
From what I can find, Bearsick is Billy Harvey's third solo release. I have not heard any of his previous body of work, but if they all have been as good as Bearsick, I am truly amazed this man is not as famous and critically acclaimed as your John Vanderslices or at least recognized and appreciated as much as your David Bazens of the music world. Upon first hearing "Scribblers Heart" and Harvey sing with double-tracked and sometimes triple-tracked vocals, a finger-picked guitar and a tale of love in a "deep dark forest past the wiggly wormy trees," I couldn't help but be reminded of the early Elliott Smith records. I also recognized, though, that this was something entirely different, great, and new. In "Kaleidoscope Gun," hand claps, a steady clinking of metal, bass in the forefront, piano lines weaving in and out, and some Califone-like electronic bits all work out great together.
When I got to "I May I May" I pretty much stopped in my tracks. It just has something beautiful and heartbreaking about it that is immediately identifiable and memorable. It is everything a beautiful acoustic ballad should be and sounds as if it could have come straight off Rubber Soul. Next is "Soft Blade," coming off as a strange '50s slow dance song that will make you want to hold someone close and sway around an empty room. "World Is on Fire" incorporates a drum machine background with a rumbling bass line and some very Eels half spoken half sung vocals that have just the right amount of eeriness in them. The song puts you in a trance, allowing you to watch the destruction: "La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la, the world is on fire."
On "Poisoning the Pool," Harvey channels Tom Petty, weary and soft, and picks up a harmonica. This song is another gorgeous piece of acoustic work about growing up and living life:
The evidence around us is kind of overwhelming, but the future is hereSlowing things down for a moment, "Leaving for Eugene" is a quiet finger-picked affair about the one that got away and the false acceptance of losing someone you thought you never would lose. About two-thirds of the way through the rest of the instruments kick in, fleshing out the ending isolation of the lines: "She's sleeping; I'm not sleeping."
I think that it is important now to mention that Billy Harvey is already 40 years old, and I say this in the most positive and productive way. By the time Paul McCartney was 40, his Wings were crashing and burning creatively, and he couldn't consistently write as perfect a pop song as Harvey's "When I Say Go," the centerpiece of catchiness on the album. The second-to-last track is another standout that delivers the garage rock workout "The Bringdown." This fuzzed out romp would go perfectly between any of the songs off the first two Velvet Underground albums, and maybe even better than the Nico-sung songs. Why was she on that album anyway? But that's a whole other article.