Release Date: Aug 28, 2012
Record label: Dangerbird Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Minus The Bear are back on form with 'Infinity Overhead'. Here's why... Minus The Bear are averaging an album every year or two, but the shows they play aren’t getting any bigger. Are they stagnating? Certainly ‘Onmi’, their previous album, was too hit-and-miss to eradicate those fears. Thank ….
The phrase “it’s a grower, not a show-er,” might not be one you’ve heard applied to music before, but in the case of Minus the Bear’s latest album, it’s appropriate. The sometimes indie-rock/occasionally electro-pop/always experimental Seattle band follows up its 2010 release, Omni, with Infinity Overhead via Dangerbird Records. While the album certainly isn’t a bad one—and it’s notably better than its predecessor—it’s still a long shot from matching the band’s older work.
Minus the Bear have always been praised for their technical ability and intricate guitar work. It's still present on Infinity Overhead, but often drowned out by vocals that feel disinterested. At points, the overly sappy lyrics are sung with fervor and match the passion put into the music, but ultimately, the album doesn't feel cohesive. It is worth a listen or two for the lush, imaginative, layering of guitars, but don't go into it expecting to be satisfied.
After the more laid-back, electronic-focused Omni, Minus the Bear return with a little more bite and purpose for their fifth album, Infinity Overhead. Where their last effort went for smoothness through layers of synthesizers, this album finds Minus the Bear falling back in love with their guitars, getting back to the intricate, mathy sound of their earlier work. "Toska" and "Cold Company" show off a return of the tapped-out guitar lines that helped to define their sound, with the latter featuring some truly dazzling flourishes.
The Sex Pistols only managed to stick around for one album. The Libertines, Notorious B.I.G. and Amy Winehouse all deprived us, only scraping in with two studio albums apiece. Joy of joys, the Spice Girls managed three (but, consolingly, so did Nirvana), whilst thankfully The Smiths left us with four LPs.
Seattle’s Minus the Bear is a band that has made a name for itself creating music that was as ear-catching as it was resonant with fans of guitar athletics and progressive structures. The band has earned its meal-ticket since 2001 writing danceable indie-pop with a progressive twist that focuses on ex-Botch guitarist Dave Knudson and former Sharks Keep Moving frontman Jake Snider’s use of the two-handed tapping technique made famous by people like jazz artist Stanley Jordan and Eddie Van Halen. The group’s first full-length release, Highly Refined Pirates, was an album that sounded fresh in 2002, and each subsequent release saw the band growing in their ability to fuse odd-time signatures and unexpected guitar-work with accessible lyrics and grooves.
Long gone are the days of Minus The Bear titling its songs, “Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked,” and with those quirky titles went the band’s signature brand of twinkling indie rock. It’s not surprising that the Seattle-based quintet is trying new things—it’s been ten years since it released its fan-favorite album, Highly Refined Pirates—but after trying, and failing miserably, at “progressing,” with 2010’s flop, OMNI, it might be better for the atmospheric indie rock pioneers to stick with what they’re good at. Unfortunately, the band did not see it this way and diverged even farther from the sound that created its fan base with its fifth full-length album, Infinity Overhead.
This review originally ran in AP 290. For their fifth album, Minus The Bear offer an amalgamation of their entire back catalog with Infinity Overhead. The pop sensibilities of 2010’s Omni play nice with the spaced-out prog-rock leads and pedal-board abuse of 2007’s Planet Of Ice and 2005’s Menos El Oso and the noodly, raw feelings from their 2002 debut, Highly Refined Pirates.
Much like 2010’s Omni, Minus The Bear’s latest release, Infinity Overhead, should come with a warning label. No, I don’t mean your typical “Parental Advisory,” but maybe something more along the lines of “WARNING: This album may inspire unexpected sexy times. Listen with caution.” However this time, though the music may sound just as risqué, the band added few dark twists to the mix.“Steel And Blood” kicks things off smoothly but violently.
Minus the Bear: emo, indie, prog? Eighties revivalists? As with polymaths, there's no straight answer from this Seattle quintet. Jake Snider and his gang alchemize angular guitar riffs, Reagan-era synth, nonstandard tempos, arena-ready melodies, and a heart-on-sleeve libretto into a mélange that feels familiar but unique. "Steel and Blood" and "Zeroes" will rock technique nerds and air musicians, while "Diamond Lightning" and "Heaven Is a Ghost Town" should please lighter-waving couples.
The fifth studio album by Seattle-based rock quintet Minus The Bear is something of a regression acting as revitalisation. The band’s previous long-player, 2010’s ’Omni’, attempted to incorporate a more overt electronic sound into their direct, crushing rock; however, that electronic diversion was something of a misstep that is pleasingly rectified here.‘Infinity Overhead’ sees the band returning to a very much riff-based rock approach. Adding to the feeling of tradition, it’s been produced by their former keyboardist, sound guru Matt Bayles; a perfect combination.