14 Iced Bears
Hold On Inside: Complete Recordings 1986-91
(Cherry Red)

However small the slice of Brighton’s 14 Iced Bears you got, it was obviously sweet. One of the quintessential shoe gaze bands of the late 1980’s/early 90’s, their sound captured a Gaussian blur era when glitzy Euro-pop went out and experimented.

Oft-neglected in the United States, and only accounting for two albums in their brief run, 14 Iced Bears remain obscure for obvious reasons. With Hold On Inside though, the band’s entire output is available, from their self-titled debut and Wonder to all the singles, live performances and B-sides anyone could ask for. It’s a veritable treasure.

14 Iced Bears were actually known as part of the C86 music scene, a micro-genre that directly connects to the groundbreaking compilation C86 put out by NME. Perhaps splitting hairs on genre, C86 was all jangly guitars and blown out production and 14 Iced Bears’ first early singles “Inside” “Balloon Song” and “Lie I Choose” were all of that and a groundbreaking lot more. Both of their albums are chock full of those shimmering, gorgeous tunes it seems useless now to split them in two to compare.

It’s hard to peg what “the 14 Iced Bears” song might be, but the dreamy “Hold On” has a singular kind of power to keep you singing along, even after the track has changed. One of my favorites is “Love On From Sugar Mountain” which is wonderfully doe-eyed and sugary. Often the band evokes a sort of California pop as written by the North Sea, turning a darker, slightly moodier cover of “Summer Nights” from Grease into a classic.

The production on these albums is clear as crystal; it’s the instrumentation that explodes. Sometimes you feel like you’re in proto Radiohead mode without the continued cut in from the cult of Thom Yorke. You can hear every single instrumental wash as separate, making the songs really come to life and breathe. The band plays within that space, vocals from light falsettos on “Moths” to distorted, almost robotic as they are on “Train Song”. However the songs’ voices come through, the message is almost always one of vulnerability and drab eroticism, like “Hay Fever” and “Florence” drumming up thoughts of Belle & Sebastian and Luna. You can drop the needle on any track in this record and move out from that space into a brilliant dream.

Now fans don’t have to settle for only a mere slice. With Hold On Inside you finally get the whole pie to yourself.

Purchase Hold On Inside: Complete Recordings 1986-91 here.

5-stars

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