(photo by Mark Swanson)
After reading a review from a usually reliable source that claimed Jeremy Enigk’s latest album OK Bear was a return to his fantastic debut’s form, I got really excited and nervous all in the course of 30 seconds. World Waits and Missing Link, in my eyes, were sizeable disappointments – I found myself enjoying 1 or 2 songs on each album but I rarely made an effort to come back for repeated listens. There were no mondrary fields to frolick about in nor were there any truly epic moments like ‘Shade and The Black Hat’. I managed to see Jeremy live twice during those tours and it seems the only positives I could walk away with were his still-incredible stage presence and his uncanny ability to vocalize just as you hear him on the studio albums.
OK Bear unfortunately doesn’t seize upon the potential we all know Jeremy is capable of. After absorbing the album in 3 full listens I was left with the same nauseating feeling he may be comfortably stuck in an AOR setting that’s more tailored for your mother or father. The first single, ‘Mind Idea’, showed the slightest bit of hope with a far edgier side of Jeremy that we hadn’t seen possibly since his Fire Theft years. I’ll admit – some of these songs do rock but not in any way that’s going to make you wanna whip yer hair around in a tribal frenzy. ‘Sandwich Time’ is full of soft/loud dynamics but it sadly makes me hungry lacks the signature throttle of energy needed to pull the technique off in order to make it memorable. There are the obligatory moments of brilliance, however. ‘Vale Oso’ is a worthwhile lament replete with cello and horn flourishes that also manages to feature the entirety of Jeremy’s vocal range. The closer ‘Saint Feliu De Guixols’ is a quiet ode to the Spanish town (and its namesake saint) this album was recorded in. Its the exact antithesis to the opener and does manage to patch things up on a positive note with its elegiac tone and shuffling beat.
It always seems we hold our favorite musicians up to the light with more scrutiny than others. Jeremy is no exception to this rule. Some will consider OK Bear a maturation of sorts but I simply can’t live with that explanation alone. Perhaps I’m nearsighted and unable to pry myself from the past but if you add up all his near-revolutionary output with Sunny Day Real Estate, The Fire Theft and Return Of The Frog Queen this album simply doesn’t make sense.