Just as the John Denver protested, Tipper Gore approved “Parental Advisory” sticker informs consumers that the record they are purchasing contains material that some (not Larry Flynt) may find offensive, the subtitle “early recordings” carries with it a similar stigma. Usually, albums comprised solely of demo material are a red flag for first time listeners, a signal that this is not a particularly good place to begin one’s journey through an artist’s discography. Granted there are exceptions to this rule (Jeff Buckley’s demos on Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk for one) but unfortunately Grizzly Bear’s Sorry For The Delay is not one of them.
As so many lo-fi recordings do, Sorry hinges itself on the aesthetic of barely strummed guitars, hardly audible, whispered vocals and a brush stroked, dragged out drum sound. So much in fact that the first two tracks, “Sorry For The Delay” and “Sure Thing” bleed into one another, forming one ten minute plus, eye closing head nod. “A Leader Always Carries A Stick” attempts to engage the audience not with facts about the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, but with a three part vocal harmony and elementary piano overdub that falls short and is drowned out by annoyingly repetitive percussion and sporadic, shortwave radio fuzz. “Particular To What?” offers similar tinkerings that serve to distract the earnest if not embarrassing vocals. “August March” begins with simple promise and a clearer throat but is quickly thwarted by unnecessary drum arrangements and a choral effect that has no purpose other than a self defeating prophecy. Not even a cover of Yes’ “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” can save these Brooklyn-based hipsters, as the same flaws that have dampened the release permeate throughout the track, robbing the original of any charm it may have had and wiping the kitsch factor clean in the worst way.
Perhaps Grizzly Bear did not take themselves too seriously early on in their career or maybe, like so many lo-fi artists, they take themselves far too seriously. Either way, let’s stick to the studio recordings, ok lads?