Californian duo Bearcats have just released No Friends, their debut album of bass n drum sounds reflecting the ferociousness of their feminism and friendship in eight blistering tracks. It follows a couple of EP releases, split between US label Lost State and Frux Tapes in the UK, hearing them hone their sound and become a brilliant transatlantic addition to the growing movement of female-led punk-pop.
The album opens with ‘Sorry’, with hazy vocals over the sharp beat and warmly blended bass, the verse juxtaposes with the raw and over-lapped half-screamed half-shouted vocals of the breakneck chorus. This is a song weaving along the line of vulnerability and violence, circle pits to either side jostling the track between one state and the other.
The fuzzy loud-quiet dynamic, and layered vocals as opposed to harmonies, play throughout the album building a sound that comes across for the most part as being much bigger than a two-piece and nodding to others creating a full sound with a small line-up – the likes of Skinny Girl Diet, You Want Fox and Deap Vally.
Bearcats do bring in sparser moments across the record, gloriously so on ‘Okay’ where a simple drum line lets the bass hum through your veins, as the drawled vocal gives you the tough love of solidarity – “It’s hard to be a girl today, and it’s all okay” – as the melody blooms and backing vocals kick in and burn through you. A contender not just for album highlight, but as one of the tracks of the year too.
‘Sunday Boyfriend’ brings in the conversational-style call and response dance-floor bounce of The Shangri-Las and, as elsewhere, many of the lyrics reflect feminism, toxic masculinity and misogyny, as well as the phenomenal friendship at the heart of the band.
Mean Girls meets The Craft in ‘Girlcult’ as conforming for acceptance, and the rituals of female relationships bubble over surf punk rhythms. As “light as a feather, stiff as a board” is sung with increasing urgency, reflecting how thin the line between invite and threat can sometimes be, it implicitly brings to the fore the competition women are in with each other through the constructs around us.
The album closes with the deep buzz of the bass and the clashing of percussion of ‘Take Yr Time’, with more mixed vocals and loud-quiet fast-slow interplay. This track – and indeed the album – find strength in not being held together too tightly, nor too polished.
These songs have an urgency and immediacy about them which make for a self-assured debut of scuzzy garage pop bursting with the ethos of Riot Grrrl. If you’ve been digging Dream Wife, Skating Polly, Gurr or Dream Nails then Bearcats are a band you need to add to your playlist.
Bearcats’ No Friends is out now via Lost State Records and available now for download from Bandcamp.