Minus the Bear: Infinity Overhead
Minus the Bear’s first two full length albums, 2002’s Highly Refined Pirates and 2005’s Menos el Oso, set a standard for Minus the Bear. Both albums features tracks based around Jake Snider and Dave Knudson complex guitar-tapping technique, mind-bending time signature changes, and synthesizer accents. It was not until 2007’s Planet of Ice that the formula began to change for the band. The left behind their general dancy form of indie/math rock for moody prog rock that lead to comparisons to Incubus and Pink Floyd. The album was the most poorly reviewed album of the band’s career…that is until their next album, Omni was released in 2010. Omni abandoned the moodiness of Planet of Ice for what Slant Magazine called “the catchy, sonic cheesiness of ’80s Top 40.” Now, the band releases their fifth album, Infinity Overhead. The album serves as the rubber match: will Minus the Bear have more critical successes or failures to their name?
I would love to love this record–laud it as a return to form–but that is simply not true. From the first notes of “Steel and Blood,” it is obvious this is not 2002’s Minus the Bear. Gone are the hammer-ons replaced by boring power chords and a chorus with some of those cheesy 80s synths left over from Omni. Although the track does include a great guitar solo, as a whole it is not the rallying cry most fans would want from the band.
From that point forward the album does not get much better. Instead of trying to write a great song, the band tries to cover up mediocre songwriting with fancy mastering techniques on “Lies and Eyes.” Using the fader to constantly have the main guitar line switching between speakers, the technique serves as more of a distraction than an addition to the song.
“Diamond Lighting” is perhaps the most classic feeling Minus the Bear song. It combines their new affinity for acoustic guitars (as displayed on their 2008 EP, Acoustics) with the traditional tapping techniques of the past. Granted, this is all done in a ballad format similar to “Let’s Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band.” “Toska” is along the same lines but a little more dancey. On the track, the rotate between guitar tapping and synth work that sounds sampled from Cut Copy‘s “Need You Now.”
Despite small glimpses at the old Minus the Bear, the album does nothing to make the listener think that the glory days of the early-to-mid-2000s are back. Although the guitar-centered nature of the album is a step in the right direction, Infinity Overhead does not deliver the goods.
MP3: Minus the Bear “Toska”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl