Minus the Bear has been consistently labeled as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“band that should’veÃ¢â‚¬ ever since they burst onto blogs in 2001 with the EP, This is What I Know About Being Gigantic and quickly built a strong following. Through subsequent records the band has continually been criticized for their sound remaining stagnant. The band attempts to fight this label as they release Planet of Ice on August 21, featuring a new member and a new sound.
The new album is almost a complete departure for the band, as the long titles so prominently displayed on Highly Refined Pirates as well as their EPs has finally vanished for better or for worse. Gone as well are references to adventures east of the Atlantic, which were featured on both LPs, in songs such as Ã¢â‚¬Å“Pachuca SunriseÃ¢â‚¬ (from Menos el Oso) and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey WarehouseÃ¢â‚¬ (from Highly Refined Pirates). Instead, inside Planet of Ice one will find moody, atmospheric pieces evoking comparisons to Pink Floyd.
Planet of Ice begins with Jake Snider’s familiar low pitched delivery. His deep shrills are set over a backdrop of complex guitar riffs. What is immediately noticeable in the opener Ã¢â‚¬Å“Burying LuckÃ¢â‚¬ is the increased presence of the synthesizer (played by newcomer Alex Rose). Another thing that is easily found within Ã¢â‚¬Å“Burying Luck,Ã¢â‚¬ as well as Planet of Ice in general is another Minus the Bear signature- an overabundance of choruses.
This brings up Minus the Bear’s most continual flaw; a lack of innovation within an album. While Dave Knudson tries adamantly to keep things interesting, pulling out epic prog rock-like solos and working expertly with Snider to create an amazing dual guitar sound, ultimately the songs on Planet of Ice begin to run together. This is not to say that the album is not enjoyable, but rather the entire album carries such a similar sound that one can at times hardly distinguish song from song, and you end up with instrumentation that sounds more at home as a symphony with ten movements, rather than an album with ten songs.
Even with the noticeably similar sounding songs throughout, some gems do emerge. One of the two tracks which are currently available for download, Dr. L’ling is by far one of the most engaging Minus the Bear songs yet, combining the tone and atmosphere set by the rest of the album with some of the more intriguing lyrics and the stand out performance by Erin Tate behind the drums. Snider croons Ã¢â‚¬Å“Don’t give me no hand-me-down love/It don’t wear the same/I want love that looks good on/With a fit that screams my nameÃ¢â‚¬ eventually yielding to awe-inspiring guitar.
At times throughout the album displays great strides in musicianship, but in the end this album becomes a new face to the same problems which have plagued Minus the Bear from being a stand out act. While this album may contain some of Minus the Bear’s most musically accomplished songs, it also contains some of their most forgettable.
1. Burying Luck
2. Ice Monster
4. White Mystery
5. Dr. L’ling
6. Part 2
7. Throwin’ Shapes
8. When We Escape
9. Double Vision Quest