|By Zach Patterson||Wednesday, 26 Sep 2007|
Minus The Bear is such a hard band to review. Their sound isn’t going to blow anyone away, and at the same time, it’s hard to believe a lot of people are going to flat out hate it. They have a very “inoffensive” sound, I suppose you could say. And their entire discography is very consistent in this aspect. There’s no real terrible albums or ones that are absolutely essential. Despite that, I have to say that I really like this band. The combination of their spacey-math-prog music and the lead singer Jake Snider’s laidback and similarly spacey vocals just works for me.
With that in mind, they recently released their third full length album, Planet Of Ice. It’s a very adept title in that the synths almost have a cold, calculated feel to them in many of the songs, with the guitars alternating between rough and fuzzy to spaced and relaxed. This feeling runs through many of the songs, but is very evident on songs like “Knights”, where you have very tight sampled keyboards mixed with distorted guitars. The overwhelming feel from the album is very relaxed and indefinite, which makes it hard for me to really say a lot about it exactly, much like their other releases. I think the songwriting is much improved from their previous album, and technically, the musicianship is as good as ever. It’s a nice mix of mathy type riffs that are in a more pop friendly sense, which doesn’t make sense really until you hear it.
There’s a lot of subtly good music on this record, and what’s most important, in my mind, is the atmosphere you get from it. The opener “Burying Luck” has a darker feel to it, while “Ice Monster”‘s brief little clapping breakdown has a very carefree, dance-ish beat to it. “Part 2″ starts like a desolate arctic wasteland, with a minimal guitar beginning the track and its very sparse, isolated feel. Meanwhile, “When We Escape” has the hints of a little prog throughout it (also one of the better standout songs on the album, with memorable riffs and and some nice quick-cut rock sections) and “Lotus” rather brashly goes all in on the prog idea, stretching nearly 9 minutes and at points feeling more like a Mars Volta outtake than a Minus The Bear song, further lending to the whole stretched out, relaxed, undefined feel that the band thrives on.
There’s also a bonus disc, that while it only has 4 songs (2 non album songs, 1 demo, 1 remix) also is worthwhile. Both “Electric Rainbow” and “Patiently Waiting” should have been part of the album and fit the themes I discussed very well.
So when it comes to reviewing this album, it’s no surprise that it’s hard for me to really nail down in words how to describe it. Is it a Great because it’s among their best work? Is it a Good because their sound still is essentially the same as 5 years ago and there hasn’t been a whole lot of change or growth? I don’t know. All I know is that it has been a very catchy album that has both grown more and more on me as I listen, and after 2 weeks I still find myself listening to it quite frequently while riding to work in the mornings. There’s just enough variety and atmosphere to keep me coming back. I’ll call it Great.