The 10 best "Bear" bands in rock 'n' roll

Categories: Lists

Flickr/Chi King
Of course Panda Bear made the list.
Enough with all of the endless chatter about the best hair bands of all-time. What about the best "Bear" bands? While listening to Bear In Heaven's new album, Time Is Over One Day Old, I was struck by the proliferation in "Bear" band names. What exactly drives this musical fascination with these furry, four-legged beasts? It's not just a new development, either, as a smattering of groups from decades past have drawn their names from our distant but engrossing relationship with bears.

No matter what lies at the heart of rock music's continual preoccupation with bears, it seems like bands in this modern era -- more than any other -- routinely draw their names from something bear related. Here is a long-overdue look at the best bands with "Bear" in their moniker.

10. Bear Hands
This experimental indie band out of New York have been plagued by comparisons to MGMT since their formation due to their shared reliance on unpredictable sonic elements, as well as frontman Dillon Rau being classmates at Wesleyan with MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. So in order to shake those comparisons, the group has consistently tried to keep their music weird and inventive. But it has proven to be tough for Bear Hands to out-weird MGMT. Some attempts have sounded hollow and uninspired, but when they get the formula just right (like Goldilocks' three bears and their porridge) their malaise-drenched, synth-heavy post-punk churns with a refreshing urgency.

9. Bearsuit
This art-pop band from Norwich, England first taught the indie kids how to loosen up and dance when legendary Radio 1 DJ John Peel spun their catchy debut single, "Hey Charlie, Hey Chuck," back in 2001. Plenty of sonic evolutions and radical lineup changes later, their quick-hitting, keys-laden sound was appealing for the next decade, but quiet since 2011. It appears this Bearsuit has been hung up with care in the closet for the time being. But their sprightly debut album, Cat Spectacular!, will always carry on as a fun Friday night record that also, conveniently enough, features an inflatable bear on the album cover.

8. Minus the Bear
This Seattle alt-rock band's name is derived from a crude joke a friend made about a date he went on. He referred to the 35-year-old TV show B.J. and the Bear -- and we'll let you figure out the rest. Turns out, the music is also injected with a sense of humor. Evidence comes in the form of album titles like Highly Refined Pirates, This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic, and Bands Like It When You Yell "Yar!" at Them. A fuselage of prog and indie rock sensibilities makes for a wild, spacey aesthetic that goes over well on both the club and festival circuit. It'd be tough to reach the cult classic significance of the TV show, they have still done their part to add to the growing cultural lexicon of the "Bear" bands' brand.

7. Art Bears
We're digging deep for this one, as the Art Bears were an experimental English avant-rock trio from the late '70s and early '80s. The group formed out of the ashes of another beloved unorthodox rock fusion band, Henry Cow. Art Bears' founding members -- Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, and Dagmar Krause -- continued to take their untamed, free-form sound in complex new directions with their spin-off project. Technically, the name came from a quote from Jane Ellen Harrison's Ancient Art and Ritual: "Even to-day, when individualism is rampant, art bears traces of its collective, social origin," Cutler insists that they intentionally took the quote out of context and they enjoyed that their ridiculous band name had an animal in it. Their radical sound has a lingering influence on the current music scene, as their influence can be heard in Dirty Projectors, David Byrne, St. Vincent, and other like-minded modern sonic experimentalists. But it's impossible to shake the image of a bunch of smock-wearing bears creating their own masterpieces on canvases.

6. Seabear
This Icelandic indie-folk outfit rightfully went for the underwater bear brethren for their band name, as their sound comes in refined waves clearly influenced by their oceanic surroundings. What began as a solo project for Sindri Már Sigfússon has gradually blossomed to a septet, with their textured numbers taking on a subtle experimentalism that caused Rolling Stone to refer to Sigfússon as the "Icelandic Beck." And, based on the mere fact that the chances of the group actually encountering an occasional polar bear in their homeland is significantly greater than any indie band in Brooklyn, their claim on their bear-based name is far more substantial than those of their city-dwelling American counterparts. Seabear's last record, We Built A Fire, came out in 2010, so you would be correct in assuming that the band has gone into hibernation over the past few years.

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