Of all the members of Hot Chip, Joe Goddard has easily been the busiest in terms of his musical ventures for the past year or so. Whether working with Ipswich rap up-start Dels, producing his own tracks for the renowned DFA label with Gabriel and now with his work with 2 Bears which sees him collaborate with Greco Roman Sound System's Raf Rundell. The pair has actually been producing music together since at least 2009, but with Be Strong the duo has at last unleashed their first full-length mix.
Those of you familiar with some of Goddard's previous stuff, particularly with Hot Chip, you may at first be expecting the kind of nerdy, leftfield electronica the band are known for. To clear things up straight away, the first half of this is straight up, best served with a side of MDMA, house music. So the comparisons to Hot Chip will not be littering the article at first, although the harmonies, as you'd expect, do have a typically Hot Chip sound. 'Warm and Easy' and 'Bear Hug' are two prime examples of this, particularly with 'Warm and Easy' - the vocal Goddard provides has a distinctive 'Boy From School' resonance. As for 'Bear Hug,' the thumping bass-line and cheeky lyrics could not be used to better effect in making a model house banger. What is perhaps the biggest revelation to those who may not have heard 2 Bears before though is not how well Goddard's vocals sound next to the low octave talk-singing on both tracks, but just how well Rundell's vocals sound, not just on this song, but the whole album.
As we find on current single 'Work,' the Two Bears show us that they are more than capable of making more lively, disco-tinged tracks in the vein of 'Bear Hug.' Just like with 'Take A Look Round,' the duo are masters of crafting down-tempo, foot-tapping house. Something that having a member of Hot Chip on board won't exactly hinder. It is perhaps on 'Take A Look Around' that we hear Raf's vocal capacity at its best; the euphoric backbeat accompanies the vocals admirably, although they are both standout performances indivivdually. The album really does start to tone down after 'Work,' the drones and claps on 'Faith' serve as a listenable accompaniment to the downer that would follow the fist pumping of the first few tracks. Album closer 'Church' mixes organ chords, steel drum parts and handclaps with the typical house drum line to produce an uplifting ending to an otherwise erratic album.
The duo has set out to make an album of varying styles, from disco-infused house music to downbeat electronica, and they do so in a promising fashion. The Be Strong LP is set to drop early next year and whilst it is by no means perfect it does serve it's purpose as a diverse electro mix. If you are looking for a more Hot Chip-based sound then the second part of the album should serve well enough until the follow up for One Life Stand emerges. Whereas those of you waiting for some new, excitable house music then the first few tracks should suffice.