Polar Bear Club – Clash Battle Guilt Pride

written by: October 21, 2011
Polar Bear Club - Clash Battle Guilt Pride Release Date: September 13, 2011


A band’s first demo is often remembered more as a historical piece than a definitive musical document. For New York’s Polar Bear Club, the group’s demo is still heralded as some of the band’s strongest work—something that “To the Engravers” exemplifies.

In its early days, Polar Bear Club bridged the gap between post-hardcore and indie rock by exploiting the inherent catchiness of each genre. With two full-lengths and a stellar EP added to its discography, Polar Bear Club returns with Clash Battle Guilt Pride. From the simplistic opening of “Pawner,” it is abundantly clear that Jimmy Stadt’s come a long way since PBC’s early releases.

Although Stadt may have improved on a technical level, his work on Clash Battle Guilt Pride is lifeless. Just because he’s screaming doesn’t mean there is actually any heart behind it.

When the rest of the band joins Stadt, he fares no better, and unfortunately, PBC’s musicianship is the weakest it has ever been. “Screams in Caves” offers some fairly interesting riffing between guitarists Chris Brown and Nate Morris, but the recording removes all of the power those riffs may have had when they were initially written.

The production is not the sole thing to blame for PBC’s lack of success on this album; the songwriting wasn’t up to par either. On earlier recordings, the band was not afraid to showcase its vulnerability, and it is what makes tracks such as “Burned Out in a Jar” from 2008’s Sometimes Things Just Disappear so effective. Instead of channeling post-hardcore acts, PBC appears to be reaching for lowest common denominator of modern rock radio.

Even on PBC’s 2009 mixed sophomore album, Chasing Hamburg, it boasted songs with huge choruses—“Living Saints” being a prime example—that still contained an emotional wallop. Where each of PBC’s early records showed the group growing as songwriters, it is disappointing to see them take such a huge step backward on Clash Battle Guilt Pride.

“My Best Days” sees Stadt baring a close resemblance to Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, as the band turns in a watered-down melodic hardcore song not that far off from what Rise Against has been up to as of late. As the album progresses, it becomes clear that Clash Battle Guilt Pride isn’t a mediocre Polar Bear Club album; it’s PBC trying to be a different band, one that just so happens to be mediocre.

As previous releases have proven, Polar Bear Club knows how to end an album. Sadly, “3-4 Tango” lacks all the power of great closers such as “Convinced I’m Wrong” or “Most Miserable Life.” Instead of ending triumphantly, Clash Battle Guilt Pride concludes with a shrug. All that can be shown for the album is some run-of-the-mill rock songs that lack the desperation that made Polar Bear Club so appealing in the first place.

Polar Bear Club – Clash Battle Guilt Pride tracklist:

  1. “Pawner”
  2. “Killin’ It”
  3. “Screams in Caves”
  4. “Kneel on Nails”
  5. “My Best Days”
  6. “Life Between the Lines”
  7. “I’ll Never Leave New York”
  8. “Bottled Wind”
  9. “Slow Roam”
  10. “Religion on the Radio”
  11. “3-4 Tango”