Release Date: Jan 31, 2012
Record label: DFA
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
The enduring appeal of dance music lies in its functionality, its sexual directness and frisson of nocturnal peril. And then there are those soppy, euphoric nights out, captured here by Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and former PR-turned-DJ Raf Rundell. Be Strong certainly works its glutes, borrowing from house, disco, techno, hip-hop and even (on the conscience-pricking "Time in Mind") a bit of Blur.
It was something of a foregone conclusion that music critics would collectively get very excited about Be Strong, the debut album from The 2 Bears. After all, not only does it come with a fairly strong pedigree - the group comprising of Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and DJ/former record company man Raphael Rundell (or, as he's known here, Raf Daddy) - but it concerns itself wholly with both the act of creating music and the art of appreciating it. Be Strong is the sort of album that exists not just as a record in its own right but as a prompt to investigate further recommended listening; it features a track about certified classic Reggae album Heart Of The Congos as well as numerous achingly cool vocal samples - including legendary DJ/producer/early 2 Bears champion Andrew Weatherall's rather unexpected warning against the dangers of E; its glorious title track sees Raf run through an impressive list of inspirational bands from "Wu Tang Clan" to "Steely Dan" (although their jumping from "The Beach Boys" to "The Art of Noise" is perhaps a tad more artistically dubious.
Since 2009, DJ Raf Rundell and Hot Chip's Joe Goddard have been DJing and making music under the whimsically gay-sounding moniker the 2 Bears. With their debut album of euphoric house music, the London-based duo handily sidestep the potential baggage that might come with a dancey side project (especially a whimsically gay-sounding one). Although the first half relies on straight-up classic house beats and lyric imperatives to be stronger, work harder and get higher, they upend the formula with an oddball-pop sensibility, beautifully crafted melodies and general silliness.
To call The 2 Bears a side-project is to damn them with the lineage of hundreds of half-baked solo ventures and ill-fated explorations into electronica. With Be Strong Joe Goddard and Raf Rundell aren’t tentatively dipping their toes into the oft bastardised waters of house music. The Hot Chip synth maestro and his lesser known pal have created an uplifting ode to a genre they clearly cherish for its communal spirit and lubricated anthemics.
On paper at least, omens augur a little ill for the debut album by 2 Bears. Joe Goddard has a plethora of activities in addition to his day job in Hot Chip – he collaborated on one of last year's finest singles, Gabriel – but his project with Raf Rundell carries a whiff of jokey novelty. If you name yourselves after a gay subculture, insist on performing in fluffy costumes, release tracks called In My Brain Is Like a Computer (Telling Me What to Do) and a debut EP with a title – Follow the Bears – referencing a 1980s Hofmeister advertising campaign, it's a fairly safe bet you aren't going to sound like Burial.
The 2 BearsBe Strong[DFA; 2012]By Erik Burg; January 31, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGAttempting to keep up with the number of Hot Chip side projects there have been this past year has been no small task. From Al Doyle’s take over of LCD Soundsystem’s farewell shows to Joe Goddard’s ascension to disco-pop stardom both on Be Strong and his solo EP, the timeline has been filled with plenty of newsworthy moments. The 2 Bears deserve attention on their own merit though, as the debut album from this British duo is silly and fun, and I mean that in the most flattering sense.
Raf Rundell and Hot Chip's Joe Goddard, who are both straight, call themselves the 2 Bears in homage of the gay subculture mostly because they fit the bill aesthetically but also as homage to the vanguards of the dance music they love. "We have huge respect for the pioneers of house music and nightclubbing-- some of them were gay," Rundell, aka DJ Raf Daddy, said an interview. Based on that description, you might expect hands-in-the-air club sounds from this project (and there is some of that) but Be Strong is primarily about pop-- the kind that is gooey, uplifting, and occasionally goofy.
Grown men in comedic animal costumes? The 2 Bears can’t be accused of taking themselves too seriously and the duo’s debut album, Be Strong, exudes sheer fun as it embraces an honest love of classic House. While I can take or leave a lot of the stuff that passes for dance music these days, Be Strong ticks boxes that others leave empty. The tunes are always melodic, mostly feel-good and uplifting, while little touches in the arrangements keep things fresh and inventive within an albeit standard 4/4 retro groove.
Beginning with three, before solidifying as a rock-solid duo, The 2 Bears officially began creating music in 2010. And while it doesn’t seem that far away in relativity (this was officially released in late January 2012), for Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Raf Rundell, Be Strong marks a carefully-placed album in the running for best electronic music of the entire year. Propulsive, simply-layered, lyrically realistic and engrossing with true, sincere issues of working hard, searching for music and discovery, this album finds a way of capturing both the heart and mind with stellar compositions.
Disco duo’s debut LP is fantastic, so be sure to follow these bears. Ian Wade 2012 At first, The 2 Bears look like a novelty act – the gay subtext, the dressing up in bear suits, the vaguely unserious song titles. And in a world where one can wear a mouse head (deadmau5) or actually become robots (Daft Punk), the sight of two grown men capering about like manky team mascots suggests the likes of a moth-eaten Wombles, or The Tweets.
The 2 Bears, the duo formed by Hot Chips Joe Goddard and DJ Raf Rundell, are a rather curious proposition: you can never quite tell if they are a serious group making credible and reverential dance music or a tongue in cheek side project with a little bit of novelty value and a few good tunes. The answer on their debut album ‘Be Strong’ lies somewhere in between.There is certainly no doubting both Goddard and Rundell’s credibility when it comes to dance music and it’s clear that they are both very much aficionados of dance music in all its forms. In direct contrast to a lot of contemporary dance music the sound of ’Be Strong’ is predominately retro, influenced by 1980s Chicago house and labels like Trax Records.