Track Review: Ibuprofen // Bears In Trees

South London-based Bears In Trees describe themselves as “a British dirtbag boyband”, a label they’ve adopted as, “long story short; it’s catchy and it really annoys music elitists.” Extraordinarily down-to-earth, Bears In Trees was established in 2016 by friends Iain (vocals, bass, and lyrics), Callum (piano, ukulele, and vocals), George (drums and production), and Nick (guitar and lyrics).

The band’s grasp of social media has also contributed towards their rise; whether that be Nick’s endearingly authentic captions on the band’s Instagram posts, or their success on TikTok, where Bears In Trees has over 100,000 followers.

Signing with Counter Intuitive Records (Mom Jeans, Retirement Party, Hospital Bracelet) on 28th October, Bears In Trees cite The 1975, Bombay Bicycle Club, Ricky Montgomery, and The Cure – amongst others – as major influences. This refreshing mixture of folk punk and synth-pop has evolved to produce Bears In Trees’ uniquely versatile folk-pop-punk sound.

Their 2020 EP, I Want To Feel Chaotic, leans more towards their folk-punk influences, especially ‘Cobwebs’; and their 2017 hit single ‘Good Rhymes for Bad Times’ is a brilliantly jangly Cure-influenced piece of pop-rock. ‘Ibuprofen’, then, is a fantastic example of their versatility. Described as “the danciest [sic] song we’ve ever recorded”, the track’s brutally honest lyrics contrast with its upbeat, shimmery sound.

Really, these lyrics are the emotional gut-punch of this track. A tribute to the best people in our lives, the song was written by Nick in the midst of struggles with his mental health. The track opens with, “I am crying on the floor, rocking back and forth / and Rob is crying too, just like the night before / and Verity is holding me so tightly / saying ’you cannot give up’ and she is crying slightly”, establishing the song’s theme of the salvation of good friends, right from the outset. The ensuing narration continues in this vein, with the chorus refrain of “keep me safe” creating a prayer-like mantra that stays in the listener’s head long after the song has finished.

The instrumentation, too, is of note. The upbeat, sparkling sound creates a juxtaposition reminiscent of the unfortunate sensation of being at a party when you feel like crying on the bathroom floor. By capturing these poignant contradictions in one song, Bears In Trees demonstrate an extraordinary emotional maturity rarely found amongst their peers; they describe the track as “realising you are loved after eight years of feeling, well, not that”, a heartfelt tribute to the friends and conversations so many of us have missed this year.

All in all, ‘Ibuprofen’ is exactly the painkiller we need right now.

Words by Ellen Knight

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