REVIEW: Polar Bear Club – ‘Death Chorus’

pbc death chorus

Band: Polar Bear Club
Album: Death Chorus
Genre: Post-Punk
Label: Rise Records

Ladies and gentleman, I can confirm that the rumours are indeed true; Jimmy Stadt has changed his vocal style. The rumours of Polar Bear Clubs demise as a result, however, are not just greatly exaggerated, they are blatantly untrue. And if there is any justice in the world, the seemingly inevitable breakout success of the band’s latest record, Death Chorus, will ensure all the world knows the truth.

For while Death Chorus does show a definite change in direction for the upstate New York quintet, it is not to the record’s detriment, but rather to its benefit, and if you’re anything like me, the first 36 seconds of the insanely catchy album opener “Blood Balloon” will be all it takes for you to come to that realisation. An instantly memorable track that opens with the familiar warmth of Chris Browne’s guitar tone before settling to allow the ‘new voice’ of Jimmy introduce itself with the lines, “This is California, found a room to rent, a pool party, drug-induced, with friends that Heaven sent,” before building back up into the kind of mid-tempo pop-punk track that Polar Bear Club have been enchanting fans with for a decade. “Blood Balloon” serves as the perfect introduction to the world of Death Chorus. A world where dark introspection is juxtaposed with toe-tapping melodies to create an immersive listening experience that sounds nothing like the Polar Bear Club you know and love, but also everything like them at the same time.

“Blood Balloon” is followed in quick succession by the dynamic one-two punch of “Graph Paper Glory Days” and “So I Buy,” two deliciously infectious punk rock gems laced with haunting lyrics, nostalgic soundscapes and melodies somewhat reminiscent of Stay What You Are-era Saves the Day in an opening trinity that leaves you craving more. And with fourth track, “For Show,” Polar Bear Club waste no time in satisfying your cravings. Arguably one of the best songs that Polar Bear Club have ever penned, “For Show” is a superbly crafted punk-infused mid tempo stomper that features a refrain that practically begs to be shouted out loud and will no doubt live a second life as the content of so many status updates. It’s breathtaking stuff, and the album sequencing suggests that the band is aware of it, as it is at this point that they choose to introduce the sombre and reflective “Siouxie Jean,” a mature lament that lasts just long enough to allow you to breathe in and reflect before you are thrust headfirst into the almost cinematic world of alternate album highlight, “WLWYCD.”

A passionate, melody-infused barnstormer of a track that asks the question, “Why live when you can die?” in a manner so cheery it’s almost unnerving.
“Chicago Spring” unfolds in a similarly pleasing manner, before “When We Were College Kids” explodes to life with the band’s trademark energy thrusting you headfirst into the world of a younger PBC with such great effect that by the end of the track you’ll swear you’d lived that life yourself.

That feeling of connection to the record’s protagonist only grows deeper through penultimate track “Twang (Blister to Burn)” before reaching its absolute zenith with “Upstate Mosquito,” perhaps the most relatable song ever crafted around a metaphor of a soon-to-be dead mosquito. A deeply reflective and yet almost annoyingly upbeat and catchy track, “Upstate Mosquito” serves as a perfect closer to Death Chorus, combining all of the band’s greatest strengths to create an engrossing and uplifting listening experience that when heard in the context of the record makes you want to simultaneously smile, cry, and jump for joy at the profound magnitude of it all. And in retrospect it is this ability to pen songs that are deeply relatable and yet easily digestible that is and always has been Polar Bear Club’s greatest strength — and on Death Chorus, they deploy that strength with devastating effect.

So while there’s no denying that the slight directional change Polar Bear Club have taken with this record could be (and has been) perceived as a risky and potentially divisive one, but as an unashamed fan of the band, I cannot help but compliment them on having done so. The results speak for themselves, and the conversation is natural progression.

So listeners, I beg you, be bold, be brave and listen to this record with open ears, open hearts and an open mind and you might just find that your new favourite band, is your old favourite band.

Make no mistake about it, Death Chorus is a great record that arguably sits alongside The Wonder Years’ The Greatest Generation as the landmark release in this genre this year.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by: Brenton Harris

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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