Broncos vs. Raiders. Blur vs. Oasis. Bush vs. Kerry. Us vs. Them. All of these pale before Bear vs. Shark. Like a tightly packed bundle of nerve endings trying to burst in five directions at once, this Michigan-based quintet is at war with itself. The territory being fought over is the wasteland of contemporary post-hardcore, and the competing ideologies are hot-blooded ferocity and sleek, calculating reason. The result? Total fucking chaos. On the group's 2003 debut, Right Now You're in the Best of Hands, some songs snarl and drip spit like a werewolf-bitten Jawbox; others bend melody into perplexing helixes as effortlessly as Archers of Loaf once did. The rest of the disc performs both functions simultaneously, all the while wielding the anthemic dynamism and classic-rock uppercut of Party of Helicopters. Live, the band's members vent their internecine tension by engaging (that is, assaulting) the audience and themselves, juggling instruments and demolishing bodily tissue in the process. Still, their music is just as likely to drop to a softly jangled hush as it is to blow up in your grill. Lots of acts today pay lip service to crossing boundaries and blending genres, but Bear vs. Shark sidesteps the whole issue by simply refusing to acknowledge any gulfs between modern hardcore, indie rock and old-school emo at all. Perhaps the group's philosophy is best summed up in one of Right Now's song titles: "We Were Sad But Now We're Rebuilding." They fought the war, and the war won. Now it's time to rock.
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