July 06, 1987 12:00 PM

The Bears

It’s a shame that Adrian Belew’s solo and session work (with the likes of Talking Heads and David Bowie) keep the guitarist so occupied, because his collaboration with the on-again off-again quartet known as the Bears is responsible for some of his most intriguing work. Along with guitarist Rob Fetters, bass player Bob Nyswonger and drummer Chris Arduser, Belew exhibits moments of solid pop craftsmanship on this record. Those choice moments, however, are buried treasures. First one has to wade through a musical morass of such ungainly, cluttered efforts as Fear Is Never Boring and Man Behind the Curtain. These could pass as more pretentious versions of the material turned out by Kansas—the group, not the state. Then, just as the first side is ending, comes Wavelength, a delicate and beautiful love song. The Bears’s redemption continues on the flip side with Raining, which recalls the Beatles’ psychedelic era, and Superboy, a perfect match in style and content to XTC’s recent That’s Really Super, Supergirl. The chord progressions on both these songs are pleasing, the harmonies alluring. Belew’s solos are distinctive throughout, though rarely recognizable as guitar. At times they have the slippery, collapsed sound of a tape being played backwards. At other times they take on the exotically sinuous character of an Indian charming a snake with one of those flutelike instruments. The quality of this record fades in and out, like a semidistant radio station. But when the signal is strong, it’s worth hearing. (Primitive Man)

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