It is with no little anticipation, and indeed excitement, that China Bears’ debut e.p. offering I’ve Never Met Anyone Like You finally drops in its complete fully-conceived form this week.

The arrival of previous instalments Stay For Good, Sunday and Cold Shivers has seen a gradual demisting of a conceptual work, visually and musically. Surprisingly, the release re-jigs the running order from the single releases, leading off with the emotional Cold Shivers (reviewed last week) and bookended with the title track, another spacious waltz that tugs equally at the heart-strings.

Stay For Good presents more questions than answers with its counter-intuitive title lulling us into a false sense of security, then ripping out the tablecloth from underneath our best crockery, dismantling a relationship’s death throes: “the morning we woke up and both just knew, I came down and kissed your wounds”. The stuttering ending is pulled right out of the post-rock textbook, Ivan’s a cappella denouement hit head-on with a final burst of guitar; a postponement of the inevitable that falls perfectly into place alongside the faltering protagonists of the song.

“[Sunday] captures perfectly the literal and metaphorical tip-toeing around the things that really need to be said, but from which it is easier to shy away.”

Sunday is still perhaps the band’s career high point to date and is a worthy centrepiece for this extended player. The track’s exploration of the communication difficulties in every day relationships are thematically recurrent throughout this suite of songs (Cold Shivers’ oxymoronic “screaming in silence” is another nail-on-the-emotional-head moment), but it’s never more poignantly stated than within the lyrics here. “Is that you coming up the stairs? I can tell by the creaks in the floorboards,” captures perfectly the literal and metaphorical tip-toeing around the things that really need to be said, but from which it is easier to shy away; a greater pain that can only be confronted by being discomforted, one way or another.

It is credit to the conceptual effort that China Bears have put into these five recordings that the two new releases here, Trick Myself and the title track itself, almost come as no surprise. Trick Myself is an exercise in living in denial, a cousin to Stay For Good, “I started watching you walk out the door for the last time” laments the plaintive delivery of frontman Ivan, “I don’t need your love if I trick myself enough”.

“This is the altruistic love we all crave, the love of poets, the one powerful and pure enough to let the butterfly go free from the net rather than keep it all to itself.”

The final track, the eponymous I’ve Never Met Anyone Like You, is a stunning song that packs another huge foundation-rocking punch of intensity. A fragile vocal tells a tale of separation, of a lover left behind while his greatest treasure sets off to chase her dreams. This is the altruistic love we all crave, the love of poets, the one powerful and pure enough to let the butterfly go free from the net rather than keep it all to itself. “I’ve never met anyone like you, not a single one,” pleads Ivan, his voice cracking with the weight of feeling. It’s a love that you want to rejoice in, but one that makes you afraid.

It’s devastating to hear a man put all his cards on the table in such a way, with such a risk of having them swept away. You can’t help but feel a sense of disillusionment among the rites of passage documented within the songs, like a veil of innocent youth being slowly lifted to reveal the realities and harshness of adult life. “Looks like we’re getting old” observes Ivan with something approaching a wry half-smile at the sense of trepidation.

“The songs, lyrical concept, detailed arrangements, artwork and quality production all suggest that this should be a big-league arrival for the band.”

I’ve Never Met Anyone Like You is everything it might have been and more, the only wonder is where China Bears can go from here, with such a well-executed piece of work being delivered this soon. The songs, lyrical concept, detailed arrangements, artwork and quality production all suggest that this should be a big-league arrival for the band. There isn’t likely to be a better extended player released this year. China Bears have fired an arrow through the heart, with a rare emotional precision. I’ve Never Met Anyone Like You is a gift from the heavens; an absolute masterpiece.

10/10

I’ve Never Met Anyone Like You is out released on 10th August on Fierce Panda.

China Bears headline nationwide tour dates:

Fri 23 Aug | THE COBBLESTONES, BRIDGEWATER
Wed 4 Sept | SEBRIGHT ARMS, LONDON
Sun 17 Nov | THE CAVERN CLUB, EXETER (Supporting Bridges)
Mon 18 Nov | THE SUNFLOWER LOUNGE, BIRMINGHAM
Tues 19 Nov | THE ROFTERS RIGHTS, BRISTOL
Wed 20 Nov | THE BOILEROOM , GUILDFORD
Thurs 21 Nov | TINY REBEL, CARDIFF
Fri 22 Nov | CODA, COLCHESTER
Sat 23 Nov | BERMUDA BOBS HI-FI, NORWICH
Sun 24 Nov | SOUNDHOUSE, LEICESTER
Mon 25 Nov | CASTLE HOTEL, MANCHESTER
Tues 26 Nov | HYDE PARK BOOK CLUB, LEEDS
Wed 27 Nov | THE FULFORD ARMS, YORK
Thurs 28 Nov | SURF CAFE, NEWCASTLE
Fri 29 Nov | CAFE TOTEM, SHEFFIELD
Sat 30 Nov | THE JACARANDA, LIVERPOOL

Words: Iain Dalgleish @fishski

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