The 10 best rock songs in The Bear, season two

The Bear
(Image credit: FRANK OCKENFELS/FX)

On paper, the premise of The Bear - an award-winning chef returns to his home town, Chicago, to take over the family sandwich shop following the suicide of his older brother - doesn't read like it'd make for particularly gripping entertainment, but trust us, now that Succession has concluded, you won't find a more compelling, engaging, perfectly pitched drama anywhere on TV/streaming services.

Season two of the Hulu/FX drama, already screening in the US, and launching on Disney+ in the UK on July 19, finds chef Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) overseeing plans to overhaul The Original Beef of Chicagoland, and it's even more engrossing and intense than season 1, which is saying something.

Accompanying the family fall-outs, the flame-grilling, and the frantic "Yes chef!" flurries, The Bear has a truly fabulous soundtrack, with the very first episode opening to Refused's New Noise. Here are the 10 best rock songs soundtracking season 2.

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Refused - New Noise

The very first song heard in the tense, twitchy opening to season 1, episode 1 of The Bear, Refused's ticking time-bomb signature anthem from The Shape Of Punk To Come returns in the first episode of season 2, Beef.

For those familiar with the song, half the fun here comes in girding yourself for Dennis Lyxzen's iconic opening explosion  "Can I scream?", the other half in imagining exactly how those who're unfamiliar with the song will react when hearing the righteous, revolutionary Swedish hardcore troupe for the very first time. New Noise later reappears in the penultimate episode of the season, Omelette

The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait

In a background conversation in episode five, Pop, handyman Neil Fak (played by real-life chef Matty Matheson) is overheard discussing the merits of The Replacements, stating that while the Minneapolis band's major label debut Tim is his second favourite album by Paul Westerberg's band, his favourite album is 1987's Pleased To Meet Me, which includes "the greatest, like, high school song ever written, Can't Hardly Wait."

"They're definitely way more punk," Fak suggests. "You can see through their influences, of like Wipers and Dead Moon. People say it's like, hardcore, it's like, no."

Viewers can decide for themselves when Can't Hardly Wait soundtracks a romantic moment at the close of the episode. Pop actually also features a second song by The Replacements, Bastards of Young, from Tim.

The Psychedelic Furs - Pretty In Pink

The song which gave John Hughes' 1986 'Brat Pack' high school drama its name, The Psychedelic Furs' classic post-punk single is heard playing in Pop when Carmy and his friend Claire drop into a party attended by a number of their former high school classmates. Instant nostalgia for viewers of a certain age.

R.E.M. - Strange Currencies

Something of a recurring theme in season two, cropping up in no fewer than three episodes, R.E.M.'s Strange Currencies, originally released on the band's 1994 album Monster, is heard in three different iterations: the original 1994 mix, a 2019 Scott Lit remix, and a never-before-heard demo of the song, exclusive to The Bear. There's now also a new video for the song, combining footage from R.E.M.’s Road Movie with exclusive clips and behind-the-scenes footage from the show.

R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has declared himself one of the show's biggest fans, stating, “The Bear is hands down my favorite show of last year – I cannot wait to dive into episodes for Season 2. Having incorporated R.E.M. songs into their universe makes it even sweeter.”

Neil Finn and Eddie Vedder - Throw Your Arms Around Me

Originally a 1984 single for Australian band Hunters & Collectors, made more famous when covered by Crowded House for their 1990 MTV Unplugged show with Tim Finn, this achingly beautiful cover of Throw Your Arms Around Me was recorded by Pearl Jam's frontman and Crowded House's frontman for the Hunters & Collectors' tribute album Crucible, released in 2013. It plays out at the end of episode 8, Bolognese.

Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)

Written by Joey Ramone, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) was originally released as a B-side to the 1987 UK single, I Wanna Live. Classic Joey Ramone, with sweet lyrics - "All the children are tucked in their beds Sugarplum fairies dancing in their heads" - its burgeoning cult appeal meant that it was given its own accompanying video in later years. Featured in episode 6, Fishes, possibly the most anxiety-inducing 66 minutes of television that will ever be created, its title is more than a touch ironic.

Nine Inch Nails - The Day The World Went Away

Used to soundtrack the intimate opening scene of the season's penultimate episode, Omelette, the positioning of Trent Reznor's moody masterpiece from The Fragile here is perhaps intended to convey the idea that, amidst the relentless white noise of modern life, love can elevate the human spirit to transcend obstacles, stresses and set-backs. LOL. File under 'the calm before the storm'. 

AC/DC - If You Want Blood

Another banger from Omelette, and the finest use of AC/DC's Highway To Hell classic on television since the final episode of Steven Knight's SAS Rogue Heroes. Let it rip.

Pixies - Velouria

An injection of tenderness amid the heat and tension of season 2 finale, The Bear. "The lyrics allude to the mythical lost continent of Lemuria and the Rosicrucians' belief that its survivors lived beneath Mount Shasta," Pixies' mainman Frank Black/Black Francis once told Classic Rock writer Greg Prato. Okie dokie.

Pearl Jam - Animal

Another callback, as Pearl Jam's Animal aired in the first episode of season 1 of The Bear, and gets a reprise in the closing minutes of the final episode of season 2. There's a neat irony in the use of the song here, because while Animal pivots on Eddie Vedder's misanthropic lyric "I'd rather be with an animal", season 2 of The Bear is all about seeing the good in humanity, opening hearts and minds, and placing love, faith and trust in others. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.