MUSIKA review Bear Ceuse’s ‘Don Domestique’…

By Finnola D’Albert

Don Domestique opens with ‘My Friends’, a bass guitar driven Smashing Pumpkinsmeets Semisonic throwback, featuring a rather unexpected amount of French horn.

Bear Ceuse could apply this description to a lot of their debut albums and would have songwriter and vocalist Cameron Matthews to thank for it. The band formed after Saint Louisan Matthews moved to New York and recruited some of the most interesting and talented musicians that Manhattan and the ever-trendy Brooklyn had to offer. Adam Horne provides dissonant and addictive alt-rock guitar, Juilliard student and French horn player (it all falls into place) Jordan James adds hook after hook on bass, and Saint Louis jazz mainstay Danny Sher on drums brings another level of experimentation to the four-piece.

‘Dixie Brothers’ (already available online) is a fantastic foot stomp of a song and really catches the listener’s attention. There are hints of Ryan Adams in both the vocals and nostalgic attitude that this album presents. The slightly atonal guitar solo sections are pure Sonic Youth and there is an identifiable amount of Thurston Moore in Matthews’ hushed, bittersweet vocals. ‘OK LE OMA’ features such a great one-string riffing and a fade out / build up so excellent that I made an involuntary “Oof” noise. Drawing inspiration from the recent past is a current strong theme in indie and rock bands, but I haven’t heard quite such a clean-grunge permutation of this before now.

‘Entertain Me’ (also available online) made me think of a distorted and disillusionedBoy Least Likely To (an English “cuddlecore” band) in the way that it moves from a twee and blasé delivery to slightly softened 90’s hardcore. This track is a great example of a jazz drummer playing in a rock band, with almost imperceptible fills and flourishes throughout.

You’ll find more of Ryan Adams’ vocal influences on ‘I Saw It Beating’, with a slacker-rock vibe, sun-drenched chords and some incredibly cheeky bass lines, whereas next track ‘This Or That’ is Pixies through and through. The more sombre ‘Streets of Something Good’ shows a softer side of Matthews’ writing and the bands’ arrangements. The harmonies are beautifully constructed pop and the lyrics are romantic melancholy. It acts as a well-timed break in the energy levels of the record and adds punch to the darkness in ‘God’s Looking Down’. Also the verse melody is pretty similar to ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, which is just brilliant.

You’ll find Fountains of Wayne backing vocals in penultimate track ‘Yes Man’ while the blasting finale of ‘Zambies’ features yet another standout bass line and lyrics that will bring a smile to any Romero fans’ face.

Recorded by Patrick Crecelius (credits include BeirutThe National and Okkervil River) at Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn, and mastered by Paul Gold (Fucked UpEels,LCD SoundsystemSufjian StevensAnimal CollectiveGrizzly Bear and plenty more) at Salt Mastering. This album is something to be appreciated in its entirety, with guitars and songwriting at the forefront. It carries joyous indie-rock nostalgia, and made me yearn for sunshine, skateboarding and watching zombie movies stoned. Perhaps that’s just me.