(words by Addison Post)
I have seen Bear in Heaven play in the morning, afternoon and middle of the night. I’ve seen them play under a hot Texas sun, in a suburb at a pizza joint, and accompanied by a fog machine. No show is the same, yet there are two consistencies: they always kill it, and I always hear someone ask: “Did they play ‘Lovesick Teenagers’ more than once?”
It is a common question following any Bear in Heaven performance. It took me a while to decipher, but by the middle of their second-of-nine performances last March at SXSW, I understood a unique constituent Bear in Heaven employs in its albums and live sets. It is the mindfulness of a complete series of arrangements based on familiarity and the invocation of a fleeting nostalgia.
Consider, “Lovesick Teenagers,” the single from their second LP Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes 2009) and one of the groups more renowned songs. The song was conceived from the refrain of “Casual Goodbye,” Beast’s closing track, as an afterthought of the original arrangement. “Lovesick Teenagers” acts on two separate, yet connected levels. The first, as Bear in Heaven’s undeniable anthem, it embodies elements particular to their sound in the bouncing sway of its synth and singer Jon Philpot’s nasally, totally ethereal vocals. The second, they add exclamation by familiarity to the album’s end; that is to say, the listener’s experience reengages during the refrain upon realization of the repetition; it tests the listeners awareness. The connection between the levels occurs when the listener revisits “Lovesick Teenagers” after becoming cognizant of the refrain in “Casual Goodbye.” It all comes back together.
The multidimensionality of the refrain of “Teenagers” captures the sense of repetition, nostalgia, and familiarity Bear in Heaven often play with during live sets -- a distinguishing characteristic of their sound and musicianship.