By Eric Stuckart
Well, this happened.
Hailing from Buffalo, New York, The Bunny the Bear is a band that — from my experience, at least — had gotten a bit of attention from the metal and hardcore scene for the band’s two vocalists wearing the titular masks of their band name. However, there’s a catch — of course! — in the sense that they not only wear the masks, but said masks are worn in an ironic sense. Chris Hutka, who wears the bear mask, sings with an angelic, clean voice that at times sits on the border of belying his masculinity, and Matthew Tybor (the bunny mask wearing fellow) grunts and growls like many of the ‘core-labeled shouters nowadays. How hipster of them.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this isn’t like the late ’90s, when bands with masks and makeup were pandering to the angsty, Jnco Jeans wearing teens raging against their parents. No sir, this is a completely different beast. The Bunny the Bear pepper their post-hardcore with dancy, synth-heavy club beats that permeate most of their songs in a way that works really well, but only half of the time. Throughout the rest of the album, at least to these ears, it’s just too jarring and feels forced and slightly obnoxious. I think it’s partly due to Tybor’s vocals, which when combined with the dancy bits, works completely against the music, making it sound less like juxtaposition to the atmosphere and more like bland and faceless cookie monster vocals laid over random dance beats. A lot of that might have to do with the fact that the album’s production is so slick and poppy that it only emphasizes how out of place the vocals are in the first place.
Hutka has a fantastic singing voice, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone and if you hate even the slightest “emo” flavor in your singers to stay far, far away. However, if you don’t mind bands like A Skylit Drive, or Coheed and Cambria even, his voice really shouldn’t rub you the wrong way. Throughout If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, my ears perked up whenever he started singing, which should count for something.
I’m a huge fan of genre mashing and experimenting, but parts of this album are just an abrasive, disjointed mess. Fortunately, as the album progressed, the emphasis on the more aggressive parts is scaled back considerably, much to the music’s benefit. It does return on full blast for the album’s closer, “Path,” but it didn’t nearly sound as out of place as it did on the album’s opening one-two punch of “Prelude to Pregnancy” and lead single “Aisle.” Even still, I get the impression listening to this that it was created almost solely for the purpose of starting silly debates on the internet about its validity in the scene. It also feels like the culmination of the evolutionary path that bands like Refused, and later The Rise, had helped to spawn. Admitting something like that almost makes me sick, might I add, but I’m not one to shy away from calling a spade a spade.
Perhaps I’m just getting old and my tastes are finally starting to solidify, but had I not known, I’d almost imagine that this is supposed to be a practical joke trying to make fun of the steadily growing popularity of bands like I See Stars, Abandon All Ships or the unforgivable obnoxiousness of Brokencyde, and such groups’ love of throwing completely batshit dance music blips and bleeps into their music just for the fuck of it. For what it’s worth, I know that saying this completely nullifies the shtick that the band has going for it, but they should just ditch the growling and the silly masks and focus more on writing atmospheric, synthy pop songs, because that’s where The Bunny the Bear shine the brightest. The rest of it is just filler and only clouds what is otherwise an interesting take on post-hardcore music.
Photos courtesy of Victory Records.