Sweden’s most critically acclaimed and innovative band
was formed above the arctic circle in the town of Lulea in 1989. The original members were Matti Alkberg (guitar and vocals), Jari Haapalainen (guitar), Peter Nuottaniemi (bass), Johan Forsling (guitar) and Magnus Olsson (drums). Madly brilliant demo tapes was passed on from music lover
to music lover and played loud on cheap cassette decks, and the band was hyped by various music critics even before they had recorded as much as a single.
They were not signed until the spring of 1992. It was A West Side Fabrication who realized The Bear Quartet’s amazing potential. The first album, Penny Century was released in the fall. Then drummer Magnus quit (why is it always the drummer?) and Urban Nordh became the guy beating the
The Bear Quartet’s creativity seems endlessly flowing and they
recorded two beautiful albums, Cosy Den and Family Affair and the EP Revisted before they took an involuntary break in the spring of 1995 when Jari and Urban moved to Stockholm, and Johan left the band. Later that year the fourth album; Everybody Else is released as well as two EPs It Only Takes A Flashlight To Create A Monster and Flux Detail. The Bear Quartet’s creativity was far from exhausted and they started working on the next album, Holy, Holy. It’s not until now that the band consciously slows down. They manage to stay away from the rehearsal space for two months. When they go back in they work differently; without a goal and without a deadline.
The songs grow wild and beautiful.
In June 1996 the songs start to feel finished. Then The Bear Quartet suffers another drummer loss when Urban decides to devote himself to something utterly different. After some time they find a dignified successor in Jejo Perkovic (also drummer for the hardcore band Brick). During three weeks the band records 23 songs. Five of them hese can be found on the EP Before the Trenches and eleven on the masterpiece Moby Dick.
The Bear Quartet has always been the critics’ darlings, but after Moby Dick the Swedish music press where desperately searching for new, undiscovered superlatives to describe The Bear Quartet’s outstanding compositions. During the spring of 1998 The Bear Quartet recorded their seventh full length album, Personality Crisis. with a large and helpful input by Carl Olsson (of Blissful) and Björn Olsson (Union Carbide, Soundtrack of our lives).
The single Human Enough off that album was played frequently on National Swedish Radio. The EP Mom and Dad was released later in the fall with same result. The Bear Quartet toured Germany during the spring of 1999, where Carl Olsson became a steady member of the group, as he managed to overflow a hotel room in Leipzig and pack the tour bus all by himself. In the early summer of ’99 The Bear Quartet began recording what would eventually become My War and Gay Icon. Although the recording process stretches from June 1999 to November 2000 the actual days in the studio are no more than twenty.
The Bear Quartet was on a creative high, and late 1999 the songs for My War were mixed and mastered. My War was, according to major Swedish rock critics, the most introspective and realized album of the band so far. Sort of a The Idiot for the 21st century. Two Eps are taken from the album: Old Friends and I Don´t Wanna. Both living proof of the Bear Quartet´s genius. If My War was a slow and quiet album with their most private lyrics so far, Gay Icon was, as always, a reaction against precisely that. It opens with a short, heartfelt piano ballad (key lyric: Adam and Eve were the first unemployed, in love and evicted) but as soon as it´s over the mayhem begins. Not since their debut, Penny Century (1992), has the band recorded noisier songs than i.e Be A Stranger, Capable and Hunchback. Overall, Gay Icon bursts with sonic experimentation and soul. The two Eps taken from the album, Load It and Fuck Your Slow Songs does prov that The Bear Quartet´s remarkable sense of melody isn´t lost at all.
And it should be said that if you favour the bands more balladry side you´ll find lots of songs on Gay Icon that will blow your mind completely.
But the fun doesn´t stop at that. In March 2002 the band released the full on nihilistic album which is Ny Våg. It´s a hardrocking, teethgrinding monster of an album. In fact, it´s the bee´s knees. From classic punk (Euthanasia, Number) via noisy improvised instrumentals (Go To Bed, Head, 10.20 100), to ambient pieces (Night Nurse, Heaven/ No Heaven) it is unlike any album prior known to man. But fans of the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Brian Eno and Black Flag will not be disappointed. As, of course, fans of The Bear Quartet. Because, odd as it may seem, all the songs featured here on are prime examples of classic BQ song writing. The lyrics may occasionally be in Swedish and the overall mood is darker but the record posesses all the elements that we have come to love and expect from this genius lot.
That much said though, in recent live shows the band has been presenting new material which seems to be more classic pop songs (anthemic choruses and all), with lyrics perversely focusing of fatal accidents, near death experiences and vengeance. Another, not yet named, masterpiece of an album has been recorded for a late summer release. An album which insiders claim is the punkiest and at the same time most commercial record the band has delivered in years. The intense, and quite insanely funky, All Your Life (as well as three previously unreleased bangers) has been chosen as a taster and yet another chapter is written in the continuing saga that is the Bear Quartet. What can a band – that has done almost everything to such great artistical grandeur really do next? Wherever the Bear Quartet goes, only one thing is for sure: no one’s ever been there before. And the story continues. Whatever happens, one can only imagine what the outcome will be.
The Bear Quartet:
Mattias Alkberg – vocals
Jari Haapalainen – guitars
Peter Nuottaniemi – bass guitar
Jejo Perkovic – drums
Calle Olsson – Keyboards