Golden Bear

Everest EP

(C-Side; 2009)

By Colin McGowan | 9 March 2009

The degree of difficulty in crafting a solid pop jam is ostensibly low—insert propulsive guitars, dreamy coda, and soaring hook in some paint-by-numbers order and try to seem likable—but if post-Pinkerton (1996) Weezer and Band of Horses’ latest packet of sleeping pills are any indication, it’s harder than one might surmise. Which isn’t to say I’m going to parse the ineffable pleasure of Bishop Allen’s EP per month venture or that I can really wrap my head around why that Nodzzz record has been moving asses at the indie kid parties I’ve DJed for the past month. It’s reductive to say pop is good like sugar is good because sugar is always sugar and pop ranges from excruciating to ethereal, so…fuck.

It’s hard for me to take this, the Austin band’s third release in as many years, too seriously. The stonerisms (“Twist it up and burn”), stupid false-nostalgia (“Back when we were young / Before it seemed like all the songs were sung”), and melancholia (“It echoes through the city streets and towns”) don’t matter in the least and only serve as negligible brushstrokes in the larger “oh, nice” sort of painting. Mining the depths of Golden Bear’s lyrical motifs is something like dissecting a saltine cracker.

This probably feels like a backhanded compliment, and, yeah, I’m tagging this stuff as the sort of thing some adamantly adore and most enjoy in passing, but that’s sort of an accomplishment in and of itself. And I like saltine crackers, by the way. What strives to be something of an ultimate campfire, joint-passing soundtrack falls short of its ambitions in the sense that no such thing actually exists, and Everest seems amiable enough not to mind being an enjoyable late night record. “Night Lights” is ear-catching enough to score hypothetical proms that don’t suck, all driven guitars and controlled clamor, hushing and exerting itself in an eerily intuitive fashion. “All The Stars” and “Future Blues” strive to be nostalgic and vaguely paranoid, respectively, but fail, which doesn’t matter because they’re still good songs.

See, facelessness isn’t really an insult in Everest‘s case. It’s cute they’re trying to have a personality, but they kind of don’t, and that’s good because a repulsive personality would ruin these pleasant songs. In a dissatisfyingly simple explanation, great pop music puts a sympathetic or compelling face on power chords and pitch-perfect melodies. No such figures emerge from Golden Bear’s music, but the chords strike the right pitch and their vaguely wistful joy is palpable enough to incite a grin or two. Which is why when “Everest” peaks like its title stupidly predicts, vocals reverberating and guitars bleeding through expectedly, it’s still lighter-waving fun. Death to inventiveness, this is musical sustenance we can tolerate. Which: tolerate? Yeah, backslaps and “pretty good… for a kid” are applicable here, but such quips don’t render Everest unsuitable for makeouts, vacuuming, and homework, events which are more common and necessary than that life-shattering bullshit anyway.