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Eliza And The Bear


For all intents and purposes a feel-good indie-folk-pop band with a few modern tricks up their sleeves (at least initially), London lads ELIZA AND THE BEAR captured the hearts of fans with their catchy, one-that-got-away earworm anthem, `Friends’ (surely a hit one day!). There was certainly no “Eliza” present in the group’s line-up; their moniker stemming from a collection of fairytale poems written by Eleanor Rees.
Formed in 2011 by long-time Essex-based buddies James Kellegher (lead vocals, guitar) and “bear”-like heavy-weight Callie Noakes (keyboards, vocals), the songwriting pair padded out the band with Martin Dukelow (guitar, vocals), Chris Brand (bass) and Paul Kevin Jackson (drums); the aforementioned download-only `Friends’ was indeed their second offering, having opened their account with the limited-edition 7-inch double-A, `Upon The North’ and `The Southern Wild’, early in 2013. Tipped for greater things on the strength of further downloads, `It Gets Cold’, `Brother’s Boat’, `Light It Up’ and the `Make It On My Own’ – all nodding toward MUMFORD & SONS and The LUMINEERS for inspiration. Tipped by many pundits down south as the next big thing when they signed to Capitol Records, the mystery was on how long it took for their eponymous debut album to arrive at reviewers doorsteps.
Unleashed in April 2016, the syrupy, pop-inflected ELIZA AND THE BEAR {*7} turned out to be no threat to their peers, although it did breech the Top 30 for a week. Relying on the aforementioned singles (especially `Friends’) and some identifiable horns to create its buzz, there might yet be criticisms and accusations that `Make It On Your Own’ sounded remarkably similar to IMAGINE DRAGONS’ `Radioactive’. The fact was that most EATB entries such as `Lion’s Heart’, the heart-rending `Cruel’ and the jangly `It Gets Cold’ had a feeling of total recall, but bright and refreshing? – no one could deny them these traits. EATB the next COLDPLAY or ARCADE FIRE? – a beefed-up sophomore set might yet be the solution. However, this would be without the departing Callie.
Sadly for the lads, GROUP THERAPY (2018) {*4} – released on indie imprint Be-Known Music – took the easy dance-pop direction, which didn’t quite rekindle the promise they’d shown earlier. And sounding like WHAM! or SHALAMAR (sample `Higher’ and `I Wanna Feel It’) on a night out on the tiles, ELIZA AND THE BEAR lost sales in their half-cocked attempt at sounding like every other ten-a-penny combo. The good news was that there time for change.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2016-Jun2019

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