Atlanta indie-pop outfit Gold-Bears has gone through a series of line-up changes since 2009, but chief singer, songwriter and bandleader, Jeremy Underwood, is still pushing forward, this time cramming 32 minutes of histrionic pop explosions into Dalliance, the band’s follow up to their 2011 debut, Are You Falling in Love? Live, three and/or four-fifths of Gold-Bears (depending on time and circumstance) is now made up of one of Atlanta’s most exciting acts, Small Reactions. But on this second album, to attain his update on the washed-out vocal duo-action of The Jesus And Mary Chain or labelmates The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Underwood has enlisted a few guest vocalists, including Black Tambourine’s Pam Berry (From Tallahassee To Gainesville) and Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa (Yeah, Tonight).
The fuzzed-up Chest, with all its speed-pop and nasally vocal upticks, could easily be a cut off a Thermals record. And kick-off track Yeah, Tonight is, not unlike Hey Ya, an oddly engaging and upbeat break-up jam. Both songs leave one stuck in an unsure moment of deciding whether or not it’s kosher to dance to someone else’s misery. As Dalliance progresses, the poppy hooks fade out in favor of jangly yet driving beats, with a smattering of significantly slower, but certainly passable, moments. The slow jams, like the too-heavily laden I Hope They’re Right, aren’t as gripping and briefly put a drag on the album’s energy. Gold-Bears are at their best when crashing through a snotty, reverberating pop track or dishing out smashing percussion. In their personal quiet-loud wars, the loud wins every battle.
The nod to washed-out surf noir is astute. Dalliance‘s most anthemic moments—the drums and tambourine-propelled From Tallahassee To Gainesville and the similarly driving Hey Sophie—are two of the album’s most memorable.
So despite some sugary moments, Dalliance, mostly ringing with fizzy excitement, is nonethelss a record that toes the line between bitter and sweet lonely dude moments. Or as said at the end of Chest, “And I will love you like the way you could never love yourself.” Aw.