August 28, 2012 - Dangerbird
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. Many longtime fans found Omni too “dancey” or too “poppy,” and it seems as if the band understood. Infinity Overhead sees Minus The Bear not just returning to form with a gritty, guitar-heavy record—they’re mastering it.
With the first riff of the opening “Steel And Blood,” guitarists Jake Snider and Dave Knudson take back the forefront of their sound, bursting through some of the crunchiest licks of their catalog. Guitar solos abound with rhythmic patterns reminiscent of Planet Of Ice’s “Knights” and “Dr. L’Ling.” A chomping, distorted wah-wah riff drives the disco-ready “Lonely Gun.” Knudson’s pedal board takes its usual beating, offering up new tones (the main riff of “Lonely Gun” might be their grooviest and weirdest yet) that give the band an unusual, fresh edge.
What makes Infinity the high point of their musicality is its balance. “Toska” is filled with delays, loops, layers, harmonies and string samples, equally displaying the catchy and melodic tendencies of Omni and Planet Of Ice’s progged-out sonics. It’s not too radio-friendly, but it’s not the soundtrack to your next acid trip, either.
But even within all this, Snider’s croon doesn’t miss a beat with his high-class, celestial lover’s-rock lyrics. The band have always had a thing for the bourgeoisie and booze, and Infinity is no different. Whether it’s swearing over his checkbook in “Zeros,” smashing a bottle of bourbon (and a car, for that matter) in “Steel And Blood” or the mythological “Cold Company,” Snider’s lyricism has always set the mood, and Infinity conveys an entirely new set of cultural deconstructions. Combined with his melodic subtlety, Snider keeps his vocal lines seductive and intricate instead of forced and mundane.
The band even find time to slow it down a bit with the brooding “Empty Party Rooms” and the theological “Heaven is A Ghost Town” without disrupting the mood. The album dips and dives, but consistently delivers. Some may find themselves pining for the feverish energy of their back catalog, but Infinity Overhead’s smorgasbord of sounds should please every level of Minus The Bear fan.