Himalayan Bear – Hard Times

January 01, 1970

(Absolutely Kosher)




If this is shoegaze, I’m anticipating a strained neck. Ryan
Beattie’s latest solo collection (and first U.S. release) starts out sounding
suspiciously like so many things that could be filed under Dream Pop, Chamber
Pop, or Indie Schlock, only to denude itself and step square under our gazes.
It’s a riveting experience; the kind that could provide the right company on a
dark, winter-will-never-be-over afternoon. It’s the kind of art that helps one
burrow deeper into one’s own psyche by letting some rabbits out of its own hat.
It’s also notable for Beattie’s ability to mine and integrate elements
including the palpitations beneath the dry delivery of Lee Hazlewood and Johnny
Cash; the phantoms haunting Elvis Presley’s “Blue Moon,” and the
middle-of-nowhere longing behind the pile of doo-wop and other late ‘50s/early
’60s romance-mongering being imitated by so many, these days – many of whom
never get beneath that form’s surface. He fashions these into his own
idiosyncratic medium.


Beattie’s deep immersion in intuition is the first reason to
call Hard Times remarkable. The
second is unerring musicality, paired with brilliance re: nuances. The third is
an ability that’s generally termed “execution.” The first two characteristics
could, by themselves, justify the price of admission. But the special glow
around Hard Times emanates from
Beattie’s integration of sound, arrangement, and determination (to follow
through on this vulnerable, affecting journey). Beattie crafts a 39-minute
document of the car-wreck-of-a-life one assumes this is more or less about –
and from which it’s impossible to look away.


Prepare to brew several pots of tea, or martinis; whatever
accompanies staring out a window with this playing as the pile of work you
intended to complete sits untouched. You’ll feel oddly serene, cleansed, and
open as the wound with which Beattie leaves the listener on the last track,
“Man of Fire.”



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