Please Explain To Me ... Grizzly Bear

The only time I saw Grizzly Bear, I was literally bored to tears. (I yawned so much that tears did start to roll down my cheeks.) Two years later, the band can do no wrong. But I'm still baffled. (Click that first link for Pitchfork's 9.0 review. Why does it seem like they're apologizing for saying it's good? What strange hold does this band have over people?)

There was a moment a year ago when I realized I was right about Grizzly Bear and everyone else was wrong. That's when I saw Josh Groban put the band on his "Must List" in Entertainment Weekly. It made perfect sense: Grizzly Bear, all dramatic and arty and hip without offering anything of substance, is exactly the kind of band Josh Groban would latch onto. Think about it.

My main problem with Grizzly Bear, whose new snoozer "Veckatimest" I reviewed today, is that the band band conveys nothing except some supposedly-pretty sounds. They aren't alone in that these days. The over-intellectualization is getting out of hand.

That doesn't mean everyone needs to be in a scuzzy lo-fi band. There are too many of those, too. But bands like Grizzly Bear seem more interested in showing off than writing a memorable song. And what that often leads to is something you don't feel in your gut. At all.

All good music must resonate, at least a little, in your gut. I feel strongly about that. That's not literal; a bone-shaking bass line does not necessarily count, although it might. It can appeal to your heart and your brain and your legs and your loins, that's all well and good. But you should also feel it in the pit of your stomach. Even if it makes you want to vomit. But Grizzly Bear doesn't even do that. Just makes you want to go to sleep.

By David Malitz |  May 26, 2009; 4:56 PM ET Hype , Please Explain
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THANK YOU. I thought it was something wrong with my ears. I like all the obvious antecedents: Elliott Smith, Brian Wilson, Animal Collective, whatever. But I downloaded Grizzly Bear out of guilt more than anything else--if everybody says it's so good, I must be missing something, right? I listen. It's pleasant. It's got harmonies. It's lo-fi. It's turgid. It meanders. What exactly is the big deal here?

Posted by: Eyewitness1 | May 26, 2009 9:02 PM

Why would you presume to know what other listeners experience when listening to Grizzly Bear? And why did the Post assign this review to someone who dislikes the band?

Posted by: kyleod | May 26, 2009 10:01 PM

Absolutely agree with you on this. I've had so many friends rave about this band over the last couple of years, but I haven't heard a single song from them that interested me in any way.

I actually saw them at SXSW this year at a church in downtown Austin. And, yep - I started falling asleep. So after about 4 songs I stood up from my 3rd row seat, turned around, and walked out.

I'm sure I ended up making someone's night, since my departure meant that one person waiting outside could get in, but man, that was just torture to me.

Posted by: rogo2000 | May 27, 2009 12:31 AM

How DARE a music critic criticize music!

Thank you, David Malitz.

Posted by: westofrome | May 27, 2009 7:29 AM

I haven't gotten around to the new album yet, as I have been foraging through the sufficating string arrangments of the new Camera Obscura to try to find if there are actually any songs hidden underneath the over-orchestrated haze. . . but I thought Yellow House was excellent. It's not jump-out-of-the-speakers music, I just think there are nice sonic qualities and Colorado is a pretty fantastic song. I take them about as seriously as I take Vampire Weekend. The music made by both bands is decent for what it is and neither band is the second comming.

Posted by: M__N | May 27, 2009 8:46 AM

I happen to like Grizzly Bear, and I did before the hype machine rolled for the new album. I don't think there's anything wrong with your opinion. It's your job to have an opinion and you don't like them, and I'm sure that's a viewpoint that plenty of readers share, so I think you make some good points. It's definitely not a record for everyone (or anyone depending on your point of view). But I also feel like you've already made up your mind, so it wouldn't really matter what they put out. You are in the anti-Grizzly Bear camp. As an avid reader of Pitchfork, I get more than my share of pro-Grizzly Bear rhetoric, and I take it for what it's worth. Someone else's opinion. Yes, we all get caught up in the hype machine with any number of records, and some hype machines are more effective than others (like Pitchfork). Will it cut into the rotation as effectively as the new Antlers or Deleted Scenes? God knows, but I'm gonna give it a few listens still. What I would like to see more of is a counterbalance. You obviously don't like Veckatimest, but what do you like from this year? What is resonating in your gut?

Posted by: wafoli | May 27, 2009 10:35 AM

I don't care much for Grizzly Bear either, but gotdamn man, you really show us your true colors when you say things like this: "There was a moment a year ago when I realized I was right about Grizzly Bear and everyone else was wrong."

Posted by: agl132 | May 27, 2009 1:29 PM

I don'pt have an opinion one way or the other on Grizzly Bear. I know I've sen the name on my Sirius screen and thought it was cool but can't remeber a damn thing about the music. But the larger question of what hold do they have on people has perplexed me for a while. Not in the massive pop acts like Britney etc. but in the smaller areas. To me the craziest of all-time is M.I.A. I've tried despite bleeding fro the ears to listen to that monotone drone and it makes me insane. It's the most unlistenable music I've ever heard. Lots of other music has great beats and samples plus some type of interesting vocals. BUt M.I.A. is excrucitating.

Posted by: JamesEReed | May 27, 2009 3:06 PM

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