Monday, August 27, 2012

Album Review: Minus the Bear - Infinity Overhead

Album Rating: C+
There exist two extreme brands of musicianship: those that push boundaries left and right, and those that craft a sound formula and perfect it. It’s safe to say that Minus the Bear fall into the latter category, constructing album after album of sophisticated lovesongs.  Let’s avoid the pitfall of branding Infinity Overhead as an derivative rebranding, though, because to decide this would be to misunderstand Minus the Bear’s intentions. There’s no catharsis here, no redefining boundaries, and with this knowledge comes an engaging work at best. At worst, though, we have an album that fails to leave a mark, one so lost in its intent that its existence is pretty unnecessary as a whole. Sure, Infinity Overhead stimulates more than its lethargic predecessor, but without a doubt there’s still a vacancy here that permeates in the album’s clumsy second half, a nagging reminder that Minus the Bear are damn near out of tricks.

There’s plenty of guitar tapping abound, there’s an overarching sense of atmosphere that pervades Infinity..., and there are plenty of unmemorable lyrics from vocalist Jake Snider. What else could possibly be missing from a Minus the Bear release? It really is a shame that Snider doesn’t put forth more of an effort here, because there’s nothing more frustrating than one crewmate not quite holding his weight. His performance dilutes the music’s momentum, and this can be best seen in “Lies and Eyes” where Snider mumbles the same note repeatedly during the verse, where the track is supposed to be building up some sort of emotional tension. Well, deliberately anyhow. If the lyrics were worth it I may be more lenient, but at this point it’s futile to expect anything more than seduction schemes, haphazardly strewn together to the point of queasiness. It’s stupid of me to expect anything more, granted, but there’s a realist inside me that’s expecting more from the same group that concocted “Throwin’ Shapes” and “Hey! Is That a Ninja Up There?.”

Infinity Overhead is exactly the album that you and I expected it to be, and that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. Minus the Bear aren’t known for their innovation but rather their startling consistency, and in this regard the indie rock outfit have done no wrong with their latest release. However, should we let ourselves be complacent towards such a promising group, or should we hold our standards a wee bit higher as almighty “music reviewers?” I don’t know what the hell the answer to that question may be, but regardless I still have a few reasons to enjoy Infinity Overhead. It’s everything that one would expect from the group - love, sex and an overwhelming sense of nonchalance.

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1. Steel and Blood
2. Lies and Eyes
3. Diamond Lightning
4. Toska
5. Listing
6. Heaven Is a Ghost Town
7. Empty Party Rooms
8. Zeroes
9. Lonely Gun
10. Cold Company

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