When The Bunny The Bear signed to Victory Records earlier this year, the announcement was not met with positive reactions. Actually, that’s an understatement. Their signing resulted in very negative responses. Whether that was the result of the label’s decline in popularity, the band’s masks and ridiculous name, or people actually taking the time to listen to the music and genuinely disliking what they heard, it seemed as though the band was largely written off from day one. Personally, I was curious to hear what the band was capable of, and If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say… was my first opportunity to do so. While the band isn’t quite breaking any barriers or creating anything overly mind-blowing, I found an album that’s, at the very least, somewhat enjoyable, if ultimately forgettable.
“Prelude To Pregnancy” is your typical scene breakdown introduction to an album, with some quick-moving upbeat synth thrown into the mix as a source of contrast to the heaviness of the guitars and screaming. While a somewhat different take on the cliched practice, this sort of opening still seems to fall a bit flat. The first “real” song on the album, lead single “Aisle,” starts off with synth parts that would not sound out of place in a video game. About a minute into the track, we get to hear the somewhat soulful high-pitched vocals of The Bear (Chris Hutka), which come as a nice reprieve from The Bunny (Matt Tybor’s) screams. Though the lyrics in the song’s chorus are a bit weak, the melodies are pretty catchy. Two-thirds of the way through the song, an instrumental break brings out a nice piano tone rather than the synth that saturates the rest of the album. All in all, it’s one of the better offerings here and was a great choice for the first single.
“Ocean Floor,” the appropriate choice for a second single, has a great hook and atmosphere to it as it shows off the ranges of both The Bunny and The Bear, with some impressive low screams from the former and some variety in melody from the latter. “Ces’t Pas Si Loin” opens with an impressive piano part that is somewhat ruined when the synth part comes in and overpowers it for a brief moment. As was the case in previous tracks, it seems that the focus is more on the music than the lyrics, as there are very few lines that stand out as particularly strong. Furthermore, the song fails to really reach any sort of climax and comes across more as a transition or interlude rather than a standalone track, despite being rooted fairly strongly in the vocal parts. “It’s A Long Way From The Esophagus To The Ovaries” begins with a beat that sounds like it would find a comfortable home on a 3OH!3 album, but is quickly reeled back into a more familiar tone for the band as The Bunny begins screaming. Overall, it seems to fit their formula well, but fails to stand out.
The opening of “Lust Touch Seed” makes me wonder what this album would sound like with better choices for instrumentation, since the synth part could be very interesting if it were played by strings instead of the synth tones that, halfway through the record, have already grown a little stale and continually take away from the compositional abilities shown by The Bunny. Though The Bear gives another impressive vocal performance, there is still a lack of memorable lyrics, and the song itself is made less memorable as a result. “396.17” is an atmospheric track that is similar to “Ces’t Pas Si Lion” in that it never really seems to go anywhere and could have easily been a minute-long interlude into “Rough Eyes,” which seems to carry similar musical ideas, but manages to build on them with the addition of guitars and backing screams. That said, “Rough Eyes” still feels as though it is continually building without reaching any sort of climax. This is one of the album’s primary weaknesses: though the songs have some great ideas, very few of them actually feel complete.
The musically layered “Sympathy For The Queen Of Lies” is one of the best compositions on If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say…, with a great balance between the vocalists and some of the more memorable guitar parts on the album. Though the synth isn’t quite as obnoxious on this track, its tone still leaves something to be desired. The opening of “Alley” gives The Bear the opportunity to show off some of his lower register to great effect after eight tracks of high-pitched vocals. However, this is one of the few tracks on the album where The Bunny really steals the show, as he manages to demonstrate his abilities quite well. This is another song where the guitar parts really shine. Closer “Path” uses the synth as a more ambient instrument, allowing the more traditional instruments to take center stage, though still coming out with an interesting part here and there to mix things up. This song manages to reach a sense of completion in a way that most of the others on the album could not, despite being nearly six minutes long.
In the end, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say… is an album that’s bound to be overlooked, regardless of its redeeming qualities. Dual vocalists The Bunny and The Bear offer a scream/sing combination that proves to be one of the band’s biggest strengths when paired with musicianship that is, at times, impressive and, at others, sadly uninspired. The album feels a bit like if today’s incarnation of Attack Attack! had some sort of ambient love child with Victory’s roster from 2005 or 2006. While this may be an intriguing idea for a few tracks, the combination becomes tired over the course of a record, despite several places where the band’s sound varies (“Ces’t Pas Si Lion,” “396.17”). On the whole, the album’s weaknesses come in the form of an overused synthesizer, lack of memorable lyrics, and failure to write songs that have a sense of direction and come to a feeling of completion. With more work and time put into the songwriting, this could have been a truly strong release, but instead it falls a bit short. Hopefully, the band will be able to grow before their next album and put out something that makes everyone who judged them because of their name and appearance eat their words. They’ve definitely shown the potential, but just need to capitalize on their talents.