The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Iain Shed­den

Limit of Love Boy & Bear UMA

★★★★ 1/2 With their 2013 al­bum Har­le­quin Dream Syd­ney’s Boy & Bear set­tled into their skin, cruis­ing ef­fort­lessly through a col­lec­tion of tunes — no­tably the sin­gle South­ern Sun, the bal­lad A Mo­ment’s Grace and the coun­try-ish End of the Line — with an as­sured­ness and struc­ture that hadn’t quite so­lid­i­fied on their de­but Moon­fire two years ear­lier.

Part of the band’s un­cer­tainty then came from hav­ing recorded that first al­bum in the US with gun pro­ducer Joe Chic­carelli, a mar­riage not made in heaven. Now comes Limit of Love, an al­bum smok­ing with clar­ity, con­fi­dence and the easy charm of a unit that knows ex­actly what it’s about. Recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Stu­dios near Bath in Eng­land, Limit of Love oozes hooks, har­monies and a hyp­notic melodic strain.

From the open­ing per­cus­sive bleeps of the se­duc­tively poppy open­ing ti­tle track to the clos­ing em­bers of the se­duc­tive, Tim Buckleyesque fi­nal song, Fox Hole, Limit of Love is a cel­e­bra­tion of a band hit­ting its peak.

Some credit for this must be given to pro­ducer Ethan Johns, who has coloured and fi­nessed the out­put of Ryan Adams and Kings of Leon, among oth­ers. Boy & Bear took a more live-record­ing ap­proach to Limit of Love than on pre­vi­ous al­bums, which gives it a re­laxed, joy­ful feel, per­haps be­cause the band spent so much time on the road be­fore record­ing it. Johns adds his own synth touches here and there, giv­ing a 1980s nu­ance to a few of the tracks, such as the sin­gle Walk the Wire, a three-minute pop song driven by a de­li­cious elec­tric guitar mo­tif (and solo) and ex­quis­ite har­monies.

Hol­low Ground, a bouncy sin­ga­long with pi­ano and acous­tic guitar jostling for po­si­tion is equally po­tent. Cen­tral to ev­ery­thing here, of course, is the voice of front­man Dave Hosk­ing. His is an in­stru­ment with the abil­ity to haunt and linger even when the de­liv­ery is so smooth it’s like he’s not even try­ing. That’s true of the rum­bling Where’d You Go, where again har­mony sells the song in the cho­rus.

Hosk­ing, who started Boy & Bear as a solo pro­ject six years ago, has been the chief song­writer in the band since then, but Limit of Love is a de­par­ture in that sense, with sev­eral of the songs the prod­uct of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween all five mem­bers — Hosk­ing, Kil­lian Gavin, Tim Hart, Jon Hart and Dave Symes — pri­mar­ily due to the heavy tour­ing sched­ule that didn’t al­low the singer time to write. There are rich re­wards in these col­lab­o­ra­tions, par­tic­u­larly the moody Show­down, which drifts from a se­duc­tive, per­cus­sive stroll into an epic, all-in bal­lad, and A Thou­sand Faces, where again synths (and a nicely cheesy Farfisa-es­que or­gan) un­der­pin the dy­nam­ics of har­monies, guitar and solid rhythm sec­tion. Hosk­ing takes the mood down on the more acous­tic Just Dumb and the afore­men­tioned Fox Hole, both of which are nev­er­the­less rid­dled with melodic touches and sub­tle dy­nam­ics. Best of all is Break­down Slow, a beau­ti­fully un­der­stated stroll with Hosk­ing de­liv­er­ing from deep.

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