For 2000's My War
, the Bear Quartet
drop the quasi-symphonic textures of their last few albums in favor of a less "pretty" but ultimately more intriguing sound. The eight-minute opener, "What I Hate," starts with a sparse, Kraftwerk
-like arrangement of minimal keyboards and tapping electronic drums under a heavily processed lead vocal before erupting into an incredibly harsh barrage of high-register bleeping and droning noises that steamroller over the rest of the song and continue unabated for close to five minutes. It's actually by far the coolest song on the entire album, as the other nine songs don't go quite as far into the experimental zone. Acoustic guitars predominate, with feedback and subtle electronic accents coloring the uniformly slowly expanding, meandering songs. The sound suggests that this is a dark, melancholy album, but there's actually a fair amount of humor to be found on tracks like "Everybody Gets to Play," a heartfelt and earnest tribute to the joys of pick-up basketball games, and the wry "I Had a Job." The lovely "Helpless" is another highlight, one of the prettiest ballads of the Bear Quartet
's career. Eight albums into their career, the Bear Quartet
is unafraid to change their sound, and My War
is one of their stronger albums.