Polar Bear Held On The Tips Of Fingers Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Second album from drummer Seb Rochford's powerful quartet.

Russell Finch 2005

So long as you don't happen to be sitting behind him in a cinema, drummer, bandleader and big hair owner Seb Rochford is a heartening sight. His familiar silhouette at a gig promises the best of London's new scene. Like his legendary hair, his music runs wild and free, and as his second album with Polar Bear shows, increasingly deserves attention.

Along with bands like Spaceways Inc. and The Thing, Polar Bear combine the fervour of free jazz with the intensity of punk. It seems its an approach whose time has come, with other groups like Hypnotoad and even The Bad Plus also ploughing the same furrow. Unburdened both by punk primitivism and by improv's disdain for its audience, new skronk bands like Polar Bear are the most exciting development for years in post-jazz music.

Rochford has been honing his skills for a while now as a part of DIY music collective F-IRE but finally made a splash last year with the finely crafted debut Dim Lit. Despite rumoured offers to join the new band of ex-Libertine Pete Doherty, he's stayed true to his music, picking up the BBC's rising star award along the way.

The new record Held On The Tips Of Fingers continues his momentum, with the band's lean line up of bass, drums and two tenor saxophones used to the full. Though a twin tenor frontline may sound risky, it's interesting to hear how the boisterous Pete Wareham alternately blends and contrasts with the more measured Mark Lockheart on tracks like "Argumentative".

Electronica artist Leafcutter John has also been newly recruited and fills out the sound throughout, fizzing like R2D2 on dexedrine during "To Touch The Red Brick". But it's the gutbucket grooves supplied by Rochfords drums and bassist Tom Herbert that really get you in the chest, going like the clappers on "Your Eyes The Sea" while the horns give it both barrels.

Held On The Tips Of Fingers makes serious advances on their debut. Seb Rochford clearly has a bright future ahead. Maybe you should avoid his local cinema though...

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