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Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus Album Cover

Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus

Reviewed by
8.5
Polar Bear Club - Death Chorus
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Record Label: Rise
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
You can add Polar Bear Club to the ever growing list of bands who’ve changed vocal styles for one reason or the other, joining the ranks of Saves The Day, Every Time I Die, Fake Problems, and many more. Death Chorus is the band’s first release for mega-indie Rise Records (and fourth overall) and it’s decidedly different than its predecessors just based on vocalist Jimmy Stadt’s new delivery. Naturally, that led to accusations of the band “selling out” to some mythical Rise demands, but really it was just because Stadt’s voice was getting worn out by the gruffer, raspy style he used on PBC’s first three records. So while the vocals will the most jarring change for fans, they can take comfort in the fact that the band is still kicking ass musically, as Death Chorus results in the band’s most electric and confident sounding release yet.

Stadt’s vocal change-up isn’t the only thing different about Polar Bear Club. The band added three new members since 2011’s Clash Battle Guilt Pride - drummer Steve Port, guitarist Patrick Benson, and bassist Tyler Smith - with Stadt and guitarist Chris Browne remaining as the only original PBC members. However, since Stadt and Browne are the two main song writers, the band isn’t lacking any punch or energy. In fact, Death Chorus (with help from producer Will Yip) has built upon those Clash Battle anthems and captured the band’s impressive live sound into instant fan favorites like the massive “Graph Paper Glory Days” (good luck getting Stadt’s “ahhhh-yeahhh-ahh” out of your head) and the poignant “For Show.” The latter’s chorus proves that Stadt can still unleash an emotional wallop without destroying his vocal chords.

Musically, Death Chorus could be a distant cousin to 2009’s Chasing Hamburg. Opening track “Blood Balloon” is bursting with attitude, thanks to the dueling riffs of Browne and Benson, while the frenetic urgency of “When We Were College Kids” has an underlying darkness buoyed by Port’s inspired drumming and Smith’s creeping bass line. But while PBC was kind of sort of chasing that pop sound on Hamburg but never quite capturing it, Death Chorus executes the balance between pop and punk seamlessly - and a lot of that has to do with the music finally complementing Stadt’s vocals. Instead of keeping the raspy intensity always at 11 like in previous releases, Stadt now has a flexibility and control that affords him a variety of ways to approach a song vocally. Many listeners are selling Stadt and the album short by assuming that “clean” vocals are boring and one-note. But the more you listen (and listen carefully), you’ll realize how Stadt fluctuates from lower vocals to the more euphoric (“Twang (Blister to Burn)” is a prime example, with Browne’s guitar work bringing Jimmy Eat World to mind), while maintaining its fiery intensity. A song like “WLWYCD” (a Death Chorus high) wouldn’t have the same emotional resonance if it employed Stadt’s previous grit. Instead we get one of the best Polar Bear Club refrains ever - the happy-go-lucky repetition of “Why live when you can die?”

The quiet ballad of “Siouxsie Jeanne” will raise eyebrows initially, and even though Stadt gets a little overwrought lyrically, it’s one of the best vocal performances. Set to a single hushed guitar, Stadt’s carol to his theatrical background offers a nice change of pace for Death Chorus. Classic PBC emerges in the form of “Chicago Spring,” a delicious mid-tempo punk song that’ll satiate those craving something more in the vein of Clash Battle Guilt Pride. But the biggest triumph is Death Chorus finale “Upstate Mosquito.” It’s beautifully constructed and features the very best imagery of Stadt’s lyrics. It’s the most poignant moment on Death Chorus as Stadt tackles the topic of trying to move on from the past (“but thinking back on our favorite regrets/that kept us from dying/dying for dead dreams”). It perfect exemplifies what Stadt wrote earlier this week regarding his vocals - that Polar Bear Club has always been about the songs, about the live shows, and about the passion one feels when listening to his band. It’s never been about how gritty his vocals have sounded and I’ll be damned if the cleaner vocals have diminished even one ounce of Death Chorus’ spirit and fervor.

What I’m getting at is this: Death Chorus is through-and-through a genuine Polar Bear Club release, and possibly the band’s best one to boot. Those fans fearing the change in Stadt’s vocal delivery would be the band’s undoing were sorely mistaken, as Death Chorus opens up a world of possibilities for Polar Bear Club to follow up on. In a time where it’s hard to distinguish which gruffy-voiced punk band is which, Polar Bear Club has emerged from the crowded pack with one of the best and freshest sounding punk rock records of 2013. Simply put, Death Chorus is the record Polar Bear Club needed to make.

8.5/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 57
03:38 AM on 11/19/13
#2
cubsml34
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Great review. I think I'm coming around on Jimmy's vocals, especially since his post cleared up what happened to his voice. Musically I think it's still a step backwards and not as complete from front to back as CBGP, but fuck would that album have been hard to top. I guess it's good they're progressing though and not making the same record twice. Still trying to imagine his old vocals over these tracks as I listen to them haha.

Also, anyone else think that the 4th songs on PBC records are their most underrated? Take Me and Kneel on Nails rip, and I'm liking For Show quite a bit too.
04:10 AM on 11/19/13
#3
Archael
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should add alex gaskarth on to that list.
05:20 AM on 11/19/13
#4
hometownblues_
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should add alex gaskarth on to that list.
I actually preferred his voice on the earlier stuff. It was raw, untouched and deeper than it is now. It was especially amazing for someone in their late teens to come out with.

Cool review, I love the album. Jimmy's voice sounds great both ways, but this new sound is refreshing to the ears.
05:27 AM on 11/19/13
#5
jpmalone4
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I always wanted to get into this band but somehow never got around to it, despite seeing them open for other bands over the years. I will listen to this today for sure.
05:42 AM on 11/19/13
#6
lovemetal24
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album is insanely good
06:30 AM on 11/19/13
#7
WhatJulianSaid
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Jogged to this last night, super good.
06:51 AM on 11/19/13
#8
Blake Solomon
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is it really that big of a deal to people? i've only heard a few songs, but it doesn't not sound like him. songs sounded good, let's move on.
07:45 AM on 11/19/13
#9
iamalexenglish
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Neve actually listened to this band. Can something give me some RIYL bands please?
08:04 AM on 11/19/13
wheniflysolo
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Neve actually listened to this band. Can something give me some RIYL bands please?
hot water music
08:16 AM on 11/19/13
Vance Mook
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is it really that big of a deal to people? i've only heard a few songs, but it doesn't not sound like him. songs sounded good, let's move on.

My thoughts exactly. His voices still sounds gruff throughout the record- check out "For Show"- but as a whole, they just inverted their style to a cleaner sound with rough parts throughout. not to mention this record is their best since Sometimes Things Just Disappear, so...get on board or quit griping haha. Excellent review, Drew.
08:37 AM on 11/19/13
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is it really that big of a deal to people? i've only heard a few songs, but it doesn't not sound like him. songs sounded good, let's move on.

Simply put....yes

It's not the end of the world for me but it will be for a lot. Especially when you're starting to sound like Transit and modern day Saves the Day...both of which are horrendous.

It sucks that his voice is shot and that this is likely what Polar Bear Club will become. But that still doesn't mean they can't release some good material with cleaner vocals. For example, some of the The Redder The Better EP.

But having his voice shot also doesn't justify garbage like "Siouxsie Jeanne" and the majority of Death Chorus.
08:44 AM on 11/19/13
Blake Solomon
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Simply put....yes

It's not the end of the world for me but it will be for a lot. Especially when you're starting to sound like Transit and modern day Saves the Day...both of which are horrendous.

It sucks that his voice is shot and that this is likely what Polar Bear Club will become. But that still doesn't mean they can't release some good material with cleaner vocals. For example, some of the The Redder The Better EP.

But having his voice shot also doesn't justify garbage like "Siouxsie Jeanne" and the majority of Death Chorus.
it will be the end of the world for some people? YIKES!
09:00 AM on 11/19/13
harsh reality
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it will be the end of the world for some people? YIKES!

OMG HYPERBOLE

But it is true to a degree. Otherwise Death Chorus sounds like another generic pop-punk record shilled to death on this website by the generic pop-punk flavor of the week.

Point is, with cleaner vocals, they have proven they can do a hell of a lot better than this. Which is more disappointing than his new shot voice.
09:05 AM on 11/19/13
Blake Solomon
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OMG HYPERBOLE

But it is true to a degree. Otherwise Death Chorus sounds like another generic pop-punk record shilled to death on this website by the generic pop-punk flavor of the week.

Point is, with cleaner vocals, they have proven they can do a hell of a lot better than this. Which is more disappointing than his new shot voice.
im working my way through the record now. got like 3 songs left. but i'd say the first four are definitely on par with older material in terms of aggression and volume. maybe it's not as good as Clash Battle, but it doesn't strike me as being a disaster in any way.

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