Review by Vince Leigh
Third single in for The SunBears follows recent track Hurricane with the three-piece establishing their claim on some hallowed territory with sly exuberance and effortless musical poise. Devil Smile is a chugging, steamrolling amalgamation of the band’s collective skills.
The new track highlights a mutualistic relationship between vocal and guitar, a smooth interplay that underscores the thematic realms explored. Present also is a distinctive dynamic between verse and chorus, one which is perhaps de rigueur for such a style.
Still, on Devil Smile, this tussle is displayed with alacrity and uninhibited naturalness. The relatively low register of the verse vocal contrasts suitably and effectively with the emancipated growls and grit of the chorus, particularly in the tag, where dare I say it, the ghost of Hendrix hovers conspiratorially—a most welcome spiritual presence indeed.
The SunBears’ previous tracks have all exhibited a coalescence of genres, with rock and blues being the most prominent, then slicing and dicing these into whatever sub-genres emerge after that. Devil Smile does not diverge from this. The track is evocative in the sense that it adheres to those brooding, almost menacing characteristics that have long since marked the allure of the particular style. This evocation can only transpire as a result of the musical artistry at play.
And I don’t use that term lightly.
What persuades here are the performances. If we put aside the quality of the song for one moment—though I am always wary of contemplating such a thing—the playing is enough to carry one’s attention through to the end. Such expertise is part of the fabric of the track. And yes, despite my tendency to prioritise the song above all else, in such musical playgrounds as The SunBears frolic, this characteristic is not quite as vital.
There are other artistic models, the kinds which do not require the listener to latch onto hooks necessarily but to immerse themselves in another sort of language: an emotional reality that seems to churn and ripple with unquantifiable integrity.