Reviewed by James Taylor.
This is a different Minus the Bear. This is not the band that spawned so many imitators. Now Los Osos are the imitators—imitating John Mayer, Incubus, Kings of Leon and a slew of other AAA artists. Omni (Dangerbird), Minus the Bear’s latest, is supposed to be the record that breaks Minus the Bear into the mainstream and it probably will.
Planet of Ice was arguably the bands best record in a long, long indie career. Sure, it wasn’t as genre-defining as 2002’s Highly Refined Pirates, but it was a damn good record, a promising, breakthrough that made Minus the Bear look like they may be the next indie-darling of the radio realm (the latest Death Cab for Cutie, if you will).
But the band that was once known for their intricate, proggy guitar work has now dumbed down their song writing and littered their new record with easy-to-grasp riffage (the Tom Morello-ish “Secret County”) and electro-dance posturing (“Summer Angel,” “Thief”). Drum machines double up Erin Tate’s backbeats. Soul-jazz keyboards replace Dave Knudson’s mathy leads.
Jake Snider’s persistent lyrical themes of excess continue on Omni. “Into the Mirror,” Omni’s best effort by far, and featuring Rachel Flotard of fellow Seattleites Visqueen, is fantastic. But as an ode to snow-capped nights, it’s hardly single-worthy. Instead we get first single “My Time,” an Incubus-inspired jam written for the pool, the beach and the folly of summer.
Minus the Bear has replaced all that was their appeal to music nerds everywhere with simple rock riffage that will appeal to bro-dudes and their darlings. It’s like Kings of Leon’s Only By The Night: If you’ve been a fan of Minus the Bear for years, on first listen Omni may not sound like you want it to sound. But Omni wasn’t written for you Minus the Bear fans! It was written for everyone else. The “highly refined pirates” have finally done just that—refined. And that’s not altogether too bad.
Red River rating: 7 out of 10