There's currently a lot of creativity up in the Fine City of Norwich, with the likes of Olympians, Hello Bear and Darwin and the Dinosaur all making music that deserves to be heard. They're aiming to follow in the footsteps of their local heroes, Bearsuit, a six piece with a revolving line-up that have been offering daring and challenging noise pop since the year 2000. The Phantom Forest is Bearsuit's fourth album and this time around, they have brought in Gareth Parton as producer. Having previously worked with The Go! Team, he knows how to deal with the kitchen sink approach to recording and this bodes well, especially as so many instruments are present; accordions, theremin and there's even rumours of a keytar making an appearance.

Great song titles aplenty, and none more so than on the direct opening number 'Princess, You're A Test', a song with a scuzzy feel alongside the essence of Art Brut at their most hitting. Following this is a bunch of keyboard-driven glitchy sounds on 'Please Don't Take Him Back', that back up some playful female/male vocal interplay between Iain Ross and Lisa Horton. The lyrics the pair deliver are fantastically visual: "I never understand how flashing lights can make your heart change blue to red" and "Your body is a mirrorball, a prison filled with a million shards of light". A band that must have influenced Los Campesinos!, they show how they can still keep up with their contemporaries, as the harmonies soon evolve into a final, fatal, shambolic shouting match. The opening line of "we conquered the forest" on 'A Train Wreck' hints at the possibility this is a concept album. Starting slowly with a shoegazing vibe, this makes way to drums and yelps colliding amidst minor electronica, handclaps and a repeated refrain of: "I can't stop the train". In a roundabout genius way, the anarchic ending features the band shouting the word "wreck" over and over again.

'When Will I Be Queen' sees them take on a harsher electronic sound, and still come out with dignity. Bringing to mind the direction Yeah Yeah Yeahs headed in on their last album, you can hear her tongue firmly in her cheek when Lisa sings: "Where's my entourage?". Although this was a worthwhile distraction, the band soon return to their true calling with a triple whammy of arty pop songs. 'Albino Tiger Squad' is a glorious mess of riffs, sweet vocals and shouts of "tiger", 'Jim Henson's Creature Workshop' has not only the greatest title of the year, but also a heaviness that doesn't get in the way of the band's melodic aesthetics and then 'Cut Loose' is one of those songs that should be a surefire hit single. A real singalong and possibly the 'cleanest' sounding track on the album, it fits perfectly alongside Bearsuit's new labelmates The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Perhaps due to the band's longevity, you can hear real joy in Iain's voice when he sings: "You'll never make it if you never try". It sounds like he means it and personally struck a chord. 'Tentacles' is an oddball concoction of marching drums, danceable indie and flirty lyrics: "We've got to get together, we've got to get it on". And there's also talk of tigers again. And Kraken, the sea monster. Following on from this, 'Giant Archaeopteryx' (the earliest and most primitive band known to mankind, if you were wondering) opens with 30 seconds of almost white noise that some would claim to be self-indulgent, but others would laud as genius. It soon evolves into a 'Popscene'-era Blur combination of effects and attitude. The fast pace dies down with the finale of 'Dawn Of The Golden Oriole', reminiscent of 'secret' tracks that bands used to be so keen on hiding 20 minutes after their albums finished. It is mainly instrumental bar a few harmonies, duelling keyboards and gentile drums. It is lovely respite from what has came before. With this album, Bearsuit have delivered exactly what you want from them; a bit of noise, lots of memorable songs and a cheeky sense of humour. Good to have them back. Photobucket