Album review: Man Bear - Infinity Cat (EP)

(Photo by Layne Haley)

Lo-fi: pretentious calculated choice or economic necessity? When someone says, “Because that’s how __________ did it,” you know you’re dealing with the former. When someone says, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” that’s a sign of honesty, simplicity, and little money.
Man Bear’s latest EP, Infinity Cat, is riddled with economic necessity, a condition that doesn’t bode well for fashion endorsements. In fact, listening to Man Bear, it’s obvious the band doesn’t bode well for fashion anything. But it all makes for great songwriting and a real, gritty-sounding recording.
Continuing to fly the tattered banner of Midwest punk rock, Kansas City’s Man Bear lets it rip with five solid tracks of shredded melodic anthems. Vocals are nearly lost in the mix, guitars are distorted within an inch of their lives, and someone might have bumped a keyboard, then let it play the same loop for the first three songs.  And through all the power and noise, a strand of pop sensibility threads the three-piece outfit together.
The favorable comparisons to The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Buffalo Tom, and Superchunk are inevitable, but in no way diminish the sermon Man Bear preaches. Paul Westerberg would be spinning in his grave, bright green with jealousy, if he didn’t have the bad sense to still be alive.
Don’t think because Infinity Cat chooses heart over production that Man Bear doesn’t try. They pack their short songs with tons of hooks and tight rhythms. The backward guitar solo in the tragi-ballad “A Girl I Once Knew” and the pulsing cowbell in “All Goes Down” are nice touches. Man Bear tries all right; they just don’t try to please everyone.
Infinity Cat probably won’t usher in a new-wave of mid-paced, rootsy punk rock. Too unfashionable, too risky, and too bad, because the near absence of any type of rock—punk or otherwise—has made albums like Infinity Cat more crucial than ever.
Man Bear will be performing at The Brick on Saturday, March 2. The band was recently featured on KC Live on KSHB-TV 41 (see below), and was also named the winner of The Deli’s open submission poll for Best Kansas City Emerging Artist of 2012.

--Steven M. Garcia

Steven is guitarist and lead vocalist for Kansas City power pop trio Deco Auto. He also makes a deliciously angry salsa.

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