The world is a cold, fucked up place, but every so often it drops little gifts to remind us that life is alright. Bars of Gold’s semi-self-titled debut, Of Gold, is one of those gifts. It sucked when post-hardcore masters Bear vs. Shark broke up, but from those remnants vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Marc Paffi and drummer Brandon Moss have built up a new, thoroughly awesome indie rock effort. This is the rock equivalent of babies and puppies laughing together underneath a double rainbow.
Call it an EP or a metal full-length, either way, Of Gold delivers eight new jams to satiate the BvS faithful. And for the first two tracks, that faith is rewarded outright. Opening numbers “Boss Level” and “Heaven Has a Heater” provide the follow-up Terrorhawk deserved. When I think of BvS, I think of three distinct, loud elements: Paffi’s bellow (check), Moss’s thundering kit (check) and sharp, crunchy guitar parts (not so much here). Indeed, the guitars aren’t quite as loud, especially as the album winds down, it starts to emphasize keyboards more.
That said, those first two tracks are rockers. “Birds” also has a heavy BvS sound, but it incorporates some more indie elements. The guitars plink and bend a little more. There’s a heavier emphasis on atmosphere. By the time the final track of the A side, “The Hustle,” arrives the group shifts into more of a Modest Mouse/Built to Spill vibe. “Hustle” could’ve easily fit in with the songs on We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. It’s got the same country/indie rock mix, blending banjo with a threatening 4/4 beat.
Of Gold could certainly be thought of as a transitional record away from the classic Bear vs. Shark formula, and the tracklisting makes that more literal. The A side phases out BvS’s most obvious characteristics, and by the B side, the metamorphosis is complete. “Doctors & Lawyers” is much more banjo-heavy. “Up, Up, Up” is funkier, not that Bear vs. Shark was ever afraid to explore a groove. “Cannibals” closes out the release. This makes Of Gold such an ideal release. It’s faithful enough to Moss and Paffi’s previous work while still pushing into new sounds. Bear vs. Shark probably won’t get back together, but that’s not such a bad thing anymore.