I think pretty much everyone would agree that 2020 has been a terrible year on many levels, particularly for the music industry. Artists and bands have been unable to tour or perform live for over six months, and it’s unlikely that will change any time soon. That said, many have used this down time to channel their creative energies into writing and recording new music, some of it reflecting the social, cultural and political upheaval we’re experiencing in many countries around the world. I’ve recently reviewed a fair amount of music touching on these issues, and my latest entry is the new single “Reach Up Higher” by British alternative garage-rock band Black Bear Kiss, which dropped August 28th.
A favorite of this blog, I’ve featured Black Bear Kiss numerous times over the past few years, beginning in April 2018 when I reviewed their terrific debut single “Hooks”. (You can read some of my previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this post.) With their exhilarating, guitar-driven sound, strong charisma and rowdy live performances, the talented five-piece have built a loyal following in their home base of the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England and beyond. Comprising the band are Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums.
Their first new single in a year, “Reach Up Higher” marks a change for the band, who recorded the song at a new studio and with a new producer; Gavin Monaghan at Magic Garden Studios has worked with artists such as Robert Plant, Editors, The Twang and The Sherlocks. The result is a tighter, more polished sound while still delivering the band’s signature high-energy grooves and driving rhythms. Haden and Jones intertwining guitars are electrifying as they rip through the airwaves with their fast-paced roiling riffs. Sach keeps the driving rhythm on solid footing with a strong thumping bass line while Bagnall pounds out the head-bopping beat with an aggressive – and impressive – pummeling of his drum kit. “Reach Up Higher” is a real banger, and I think it’s their best work yet.
With the song, Black Bear Kiss seeks to shine a spotlight on the dominance of mainstream media and its influence on people. Band vocalist Chris Leech explains: “The song addresses some of the big issues, both home and abroad. The press and public figures in positions of power need to understand the influence they have – their opinions should not be treated as gospel. ‘Reach Up Higher’ is about trying to do better and not believing everything you read, especially on social media”. I love Leech’s warm, smooth vocals as he fervently implores: “Times change / People move incompletely out of their mouths / You won’t prove you pick up the press and now want to read it again / Don’t reach up higher. Reach up higher. Don’t hold me back, yeah don’t divide / Way out a line, way out a line now we’re stepping.”
Black Bear Kiss always put out terrific videos, and the one for “Reach Up Higher” is no exception. The video was produced and edited by Jack Walker Media and stars Joshua Griffiths as a man obsessed with and stressed out by media, and doing what he can to avoid reading it, including getting drunk, furiously working out, burning his newspaper, smashing his mobile phone and escaping into the countryside.