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Minus the Bear Take Flight With ‘Planet of Ice’

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Everyone is usually so taken with Minus the Bear’s crazy song titles that I think we’ve missed just how literal (or, at least, poetically literal — if that makes any sense) their album titles are. Highly Refined Pirates — mostly about boating; Menos el Oso — Spanish guitar influence and lyrically based in the Mediterranean; and now we have Planet of Ice, which is, without a doubt, their space odyssey.

This album doesn’t technically come out until Aug. 21, but it’s not hard to find, and found it I have, and boy am I happy about it; anytime MtB release something, it invariably becomes the ‘album of the summer’ for me, and so it is that Planet of Ice will be the defining album of Summer 2007 (I’m not going to count the re-mix album of earlier this year because I’m not a huge fan of re-mixes).

So let’s get down to it — just like MeO, PoI has everything we’ve come to know and love about MtB, but with a twist, and as I mentioned, this time the twist is space operatic. Lots of synths — heavy, late 70’s early 80’s synths mixed in with quite a bit of acoustic guitar and long guitar solos which at times gets you thinking David Bowie crossed with The Who (the opening to Part 2 kinda sounds like Pinball Wizard in half-time) crossed with a bit of Xanadu.

The opener — Burying Luck — could just be the best Mtb opener yet, and that’s saying something because they always open their albums with heavy, kick-ass tracks that get you hooked and begging for more (although it’s going to be hard to beat Fine + 2 Pts). It starts out with some sort of distortion gobbledygook straight of out Tron, and then Jake Snider’s vocals take over. Sometimes Snider seems like he’s drifting through a song, purposely creating a laconic, almost crooning melody over top of the band’s music; here though he comes out in full force. He’s angry about something and it’s great.

My only complaint about the album is the the placement of the following song Ice Monster. It’s mellow and somewhat plain, and after such an up-beat opener it brings you down again too quickly, but then it leads into Knights which is so good I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s the first single, but for some reason it’s not one of the tracks available for previewing anywhere on the band’s sites, which is strange because if this song doesn’t make this band big, nothing will. Maybe they’ll do something huge with it closer to the release date of the album.

I can give you two songs for perusal though; the first, Throwin’ Shapes, is a short, poppy little tune, which, ironically, doesn’t contain any of the spacey elements I’ve been talking about, and could easily have found itself on MeO:

The second, Dr. L’Ling, personifies the whole concept of this album; it’s different from anything they’ve done before musically and lyrically and brings their sound back about 30 years (in a good way) in terms of beat, time, bass and guitar stylings:

PoI closes with Lotus, again a huge departure for this band; it’s an 8:48 min. epic that you’d more expect to find on maybe a Pink Floyd or ELO record. Chock full of guitar solos and a stretch of droning organs in the middle, it seems designed to have you lie back, close your eyes, and picture yourself floating through the aether, culminating in some sort of gigantic battle where you save the galaxy or something. Very cool.

Minus the Bear have this amazing ability to be consistently good even when they’re playing with their sound a bit — I guess that’s because it’s always only ‘a bit;’ admittedly they never stray too far from their core sound, and I’m quite sure nobody, the band included, wants them to. Their approach to album making is very smart, and at one album every two years, they should be able to keep it up for a while to come. The only question is, what’s the ‘concept’ for the next album going to be? Wouldn’t it be cool if they went classical?

Oh, and here’s my earlier article on the band.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Frenchie permalink
    Thursday, July 12, 2007 9:32 am

    WICKED!!! I didn’t even know that they had a new album coming out. Thanks for posting these tracks. Sounds good.

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