Minus The Bear

Better get the bear back; you suck now

*special introductory paragraph!
*This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic EP
*Highly Refined Pirates
*Bands Like It When You Yell "YAR!" At Them EP
*They Make Beer Commercials Like This EP
*Menos El Oso
*Interpretaciones Del Oso
*Planet Of Ice
*Acoustics EP

Back in the 1970s of time, TV's Greg Evigan of My Two Dads fame starred in a popular monkey-and-truck-oriented program entitled B.J. And The Bear. Around the same time, Linda "Lovelace" Boreman's romantic comedy Deep Throat stimulated an unprecedented interest in fellatio. Neither of these exciting cultural developments were missed by the five young Seattle people who would grow up to form a band entitled "Minus The Bear." Fortunately, their dumbassed "Archers Of Loaf"-style name is completely unrepresentative of their music, which is fact quite serious, melancholy, complex, beautiful and interesting as hell guitar-wise (2010 UPDATE: UNTIL RECENTLY, THAT IS!). Please do read on if you want!

This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic EP - Suicide Squeeze 2001
Rating = 8

Let me tell you what I know about being gigantic. First of all, every morning you have to roll it like seven times around your shoulder. Then every time you see a pretty girl, fwoo-fwoo-fwoo-fwoo-fwoo-fwoo-FWBAP! and it's another torn shirt and inadvertantly squished girl.

I couldn't fall asleep last night for some reason. Maybe I was just too upset that Crash defeated Gayfer Cowboys in the Movie Olympics. For whatever reason, I only ended up getting 2 1/2 hours of "shut-up, eye" and now I'm at work staggering around like a zombie, eating peoples' brains. But you know what's getting on my nerves more than anything else? I can't get John Cougar's "Authority Song" out of my head. It's been there for like four days now, just stinking away. So let's talk Minus The Bear.

You know, this band totally kicked ass until they got rid of the bear.

On a lighter note, I don't know if you've already read my review of their first album, but if not go read it because this EP is just like that LP but shorter (if you need a mnemonic device to remember that EPs are shorter than LPs, just remember: "Everybody's Penis" is shorter than "Mark PrindLe's Penis"). Just like Highly Refined Pirates, this record is filled with traditional melancholy chord changes, but played in an excitingly idiosyncratic and ear-wiggly finger-tapping manner. It's also filled with silly song titles like "Lemurs, Man, Lemurs" and "Pantsuit...Uggghhh" masking their dastardly ruse of writing serious lyrics -- apparently all at and about the same Party With Beer And Sex.

Sample lyrics:

"So I called up my preacher. I said, 'Give me strength for Round 5.'/He said, 'You don't need no strength, you need to grow up son.'"

"I said, 'Growin' up leads to growin' old and then to dyin'/Yeah, and dyin' to me don't sound like all that much fun.'"

"And I say/I fight authority; authority always wins."

Gigantic? I Nearly Bought One! features 7 songs (3 instrumentals and 4 wordscapes) in 25 minutes. Some of the songs have cold keyboard washes and fuzzy synths. One song has an acoustic guitar and some neat guitar neck slidey noises. One has some electronica drums in the middle. The last song has heartbreaking chords for a little bit, until the ugly synth noise comes in. One is very Trans Ammy, with backwards guitar tapping noises. Then there's one that goes up to high notes, then down to low, tied together in each speaker. I'm eight years old!

Hey! Get away from my computer, you eight-year-old! Heh heh, those mischievous eight-year-olds. Unfortunately we're out of time for today, so I won't be able to review this record myself.

These finger-tap melodies are beautiful and must be heard by you. The only problem (if there IS a problem) with this excellent EP is that all the wordscape songs are exactly identical in mood so after a while you're all like, "Dude, is this the same song we just heard?" Incidentally, that would make a fantastic title for a poorly conceived Ashton Kutcher sequel.

Binus The Mear is a very sad and romantic band, whom I describe much more poetically in later entries on this page. This particular 'review' was half-assed several months later when I was tireder than a sleepy bird tweeting its good night tweets from the snugness of the nest.

Unfortunately I'm at work at the moment.

And although I don't think the boss will care one way or the other about my pinestraw office, how am I gonna explain the eggs!?

(*laugh track weeps solemnly*)

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Highly Refined Pirates - Suicide Squeeze 2002
Rating = 8

This fellow I know named Herman, well-loved in his community, subscribes to the theory that a song is only truly great if it even sounds good when performed on solo piano. However, another fellow I know once wondered aloud to me in an email, "Why do most music critics focus completely on the melodies when there are so many other aspects to a song?" This second fellow has a very good point that in my opinion sorta negates Herman's argument, as well-loved as he is in his community. For illustration, if you played just the key changes of Highly Refined Pirates's songs (the bass lines and vocal melodies) on a solo piano, they would be no grate sheiks. However, because of the way the songs are actually performed, they sound really, really awesome. Or, as a woman spelled it in the guestbook of a winter cabin I just spent a week at, "ossum." Here, let me elaborate if I might.

They actually had an EP before this called This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic, but I haven't managed to buy a copy yet, so let's start with this debut long-player for now. Led by super-guitarist David Knutson of Botch fame, drummer Erin Tate of Onalaska anonymity, loud music producer Matt Bayles, singer/songwriter/guitarist Jake Snider and a bass player, Minus The Bear on this record performs normal minor-key emo/alternative music, but in a very fascinating manner. First and foremost, the two guitarists' hypnotic gamelan-like stereo interplay makes Television and Sonic Youth sound like The Ramones and a guy dropping a rock on his foot respectively. Secondly and also foremost, this Knutson fellow is a HUGE fan of the ol' fingertap guitar-playing method (using the fingers of both hands to tap directly on the frets like piano keys, rather than strumming or plucking the strings), resulting in notes that noodle around quickly and fluidly without all the impact sounds you get when you pick with one hand and change notes with the other. The recently-divorced Eddie Van Halen used to do a lot of fingertapping too, but he used really loud distortion; Knutson plays it clean (his guitar must have some great 'action,' as they say in the guitar industry business!).

So while Mr. Knutson's tappity-doo-dahing all over creation, Mr. Snider weaves beautiful little interplay arpeggios between and throughout Knutson's. Bassist Cory Murchy highlights the changes with his heavy notes, and the end result is a collection of (surprisingly uptempo) melancholy melodies played in such a unique way that I enjoy the shit out of it even though I hate emo. If these chord changes were expressed through actual CHORDS rather than this unique and intelligent guitarical manner, they would probably be a big hit on crappy Modern Rock radio because they'd sound just like everything else on there (especially since Jake has such an easy-on-the-ears radio-friendly singing voice). Played with such idiosyncrasy, however, they fuckin' RULE!!!! I love listening to the way this band arranges its music - it's so darned SMART! You know how in some cities, you ride on trams? It's like that, but backwards!

On the lyrical bip, Highly Refined Pirates brainstorms a silly and misleading song title campaign to make you think you're listening to a hilarious novelty group like "Weird Al" Yankovic or "Ladysmith Black" Mambazo, but nothing could be further from the case. Regardless of titles like "Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco Twister," "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!" and "Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo," the lyrics hardly ever actually involve Crisco Twister, monkey knife fights, or hardcore porn films based on the Breakin' cinematic series. In any other scenario, this revelation would be soul-squishing, but thanks to the strong professional vocals, gorgeous ringing guitar tones and sad little fingertap/arpeggio note entwanglements, H.R.P. (or Highly Refined Pirates) ultimately overcomes any initial distaste brought on by its cruel lack of honesty and honor.

So what are the songs actually about? Well, that's a crazy question, but one I just might try to answer for you. The lyrics seem to alternate between (a) portraits of the decadent upper crust drinking, partying and living for pleasure, and (b) bittersweet memories of a young love, captured in brief snapshots of everyday conversation and activities that were taken for granted at the time but are now cherished. We've all been there, haven't we? Indeed, each and every one of us has starred in a hardcore porn film based on the Brea

I should also point out that a lot of these songs have a synthesizer making weird blurbling and sizzling noises in the background. I'm not all that fond of it, to be honest, and I'm not sure why they included it. Maybe they were afraid that a band this instrumentally tight and serious about their craft would run the risk of appearing TOO sterile, professional and note-perfect if they didn't have a poorly-played synthesizer bringing them back down to the ironic young person Earth from whence they came?

This brings me to my two minor complaints (which seem contradictory if you think about them too much, so don't): they let a bunch of short synthesizer pieces of crap stink up the flow of the disc, and all the minor-key melancholia can start to feel a bit samey after a while. That's it though, and this is one hell of an impressive record for any believer in the sublime beauty of sorrow and loss (or fan of the guitar). And the songs actually are somewhat diverse if you pay attention to each one as a separate entity: "Spritz!! Spritz!!" stands out as more aggressive than the others, "Women We Haven't Met Yet" is highlighted by finger-sliding as much as tapping, "I Lost All My Money At The Cockfights" boasts a gorgeous chord sequence, and most basically, Knutson is careful to come up with DIFFERENT repetitive fingertap melodies for each song, some standing alone and others locking hypnotically into Snider's correlating guitarwork. Bitter, undersexed people might complain that Minus The Bear "uses the same trick in every song." I would complain back that it's not a trick; it's a musical style. Just because nobody else does it doesn't mean it's a gimmick; it's the natural way in which Knutson chooses to play his guitar and the band chooses to arrange their material.

One other thing - for a sad little notey clean post-emo (?) band, these guys sure have an aggressive drummer! He pounds the SHIT out of his KIT -- it's a Shit Kit!

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Bands Like It When You Yell "YAR!" At Them EP - Suicide Squeeze 2004
Rating = 9

On its own, this EP deserves a 9 because all five of its tracks are terrific. However, if you already own (or have any plans of purchasing) Highly Refined Pirates, its worth drops considerably. See, out of its 5 songs, TWO of them are straight off of that LP! And one of the other 3 is a DEMO of a song on that LP! And of the 2 brand new tracks, one is just a short instrumental! See this? This is how the world FUCKS ya!

Hello, I'm Stinky McStinksQuiteFoul. You know, it's not easy going through life with a name like Stinky McStinksQuiteFoul. No matter how many times a day I shower or shampoo, everybody still assumes that I smell bad. The fact is that the McStinksQuiteFoul family name has run through the highlands of Irish history since the days of the leprechauns, and "Stinky" is just an Americanized bastardization of the Russian "Sjinky." Unfortunately, most people are too busy running from my suspected 'bad aroma' to give me a chance to explain the origins of my admittedly bizarre name. This is unfortunate because I have a lot of love to give, and if I could find the right woman, I'd make her a very happy man. Maybe I should use reverse psychology and pursue young ladies with names like "SmallBoobs LeCavernousVagina" and "Syphilitic McIHaveAIDS." One of my favorite hobbies is smearing diarrhea all over my face and hanging out in popular, well-lit nightclubs.

And that's my review of - WAIT A MINUTE! THAT WASN'T A REVIEW AT ALL!

Dude, did I tell you that the drummer of this band is named "Erin" but he's apparently a man? That fucked my ass up for a few days because I couldn't figure out how a girl could play the drums so forcefully and speedily. Women are handicapped by having boobs. It's not easy for them to keep their left arm straight, and that's one of the tenets of drumming. Their boobs get in the way. Also, another interesting thing about Erin is that when he's not angrily bashing his cymbals at you, he takes turns emulating electronica drumming, which is pretty neat because most of that stuff is fake, sources report.

So the question on everybody's mind is "Hay Mark, you just gave a 9 to a CD that you wouldn't recommend anybody buy. Why are you such an asshole?" Because I give it a 9 based on the music alone. It's not my fault that three of the songs are also on Highly Refined Pirates. Apparently the EP was released as a promotional disc for the album, but I'm not sure why. I can't find a release date for it, other than '2002.' Did it come out several months before the album or something? If that's the case, maybe the goal was just to tide fans over until the album was complete. If not, what the hell? Did they think radio stations would be more likely to listen to a 5-song disc than a 10-song one? Or was YAR intended to be taken as a CD-single rather than an EP? And if so, why give it its own special name above and beyond "Spritz!!! Spritz!!!"? God, I'm angry. I'm so angry and mean.

As for the two new songs, one is a tiny Radioheady vibratoed organ instrumental that's far better than any of the similar tracks that actually made it onto Highly Refined Pirates, and the other ("Drop It Like It's Hot") is a rockin' interplayful uptempo arpeggio v. up-down notes and more notes piece that could only be considered a b-side or outtake by somebody who thinks music blows. Add the aggressive polyrhythmic (not really, but I like that word) "Spritz!!! Spritz!!!," finger-slidey "Women We Haven't Met Yet," and exce-goddamned-llent melancholy baby "I Lost All My Money At The Cock Fights" and how could you NOT give it a 9? These are three of the best songs from the album, for Pete's love! Nevertheless, although it's nice to have a demo version of "Cock," 7 of these 16 minutes are straight outta Pirates, and Mister that's Unnecessary. Basically, if you've never heard the band and see this EP really cheap, buy it because it will make you a fan. Otherwise, just steal the two new tracks off the Internet like all you thieving young people do with your 'file sharing software' and 'enviable understanding of how to use it.'

Also, I totally get the title. I bet because their album had the word "pirates" in the title, they either feared or actually experienced a few audience members at every show going "YAR!" at them in a pirate voice. They should have called the album Highly Refined Pilates so their crowd would get in shape, the fat Dorito-eating pieces of college pot-smoking garbage. Get a job, hippies!

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They Make Beer Commercials Like This EP - Arena Rock Recording 2004
Rating = 8

Okay, I've discovered Minus The Bear's weak spot: the vocals. The vocal melodies are interchangeable and the singer's voice almost never displays any emotion. This approach, also used by that guy in CKY, has its advantages: for one thing, it's impossible to be annoyed by these vocals (something that can't be said about the billions of emo singers who sing in a high weedy nasal college student voice that makes you want to punch 'em in the mouth). For another thing, it's very easy for a singer to hit all the correct notes if he concentrates on nothing but hitting the notes. But on the minus side, (a) all of the songs end up sounding a lot more similar to each other than they actually are and (b) sometimes you get the feeling that you're listening to a soulless icy man of coal rather than a living breathing young person of passion and fire. (B)'s not really that big a problem - better a soulless singer than an irritating one! - but (A) can hurt. I mean, we're talking about a band with some of the tightest rhythm playing and most interesting guitarwork in the history of emotion: against this backdrop, Jake's insistence on using similar singing notes, steps and style in every song unfortunately makes it sound like he's simply incapable of coming up with anything else. But I'm just nitpicking; I listen to enough hardcore shouters to know that it's just bitchy of me to expect more from this guy solely because his band is so good.

The six new tracks of Beer Commercials add to the band's melancholy heart a hint of detached observationalism. The guitarwork is still ringingly intriguing and the synthesizers are employed much more effectively, mostly serving as a nice warm backdrop for the guitars to pluck and tap over. And pluck/tap they do! M The B continues to spin out some of the loveliest guitar interplay in the wurld, sharply bringing the dueling guitar lines into and against each other in such a way that sometimes you can't even tell that they're playing two different parts until you listen more closely to what's coming out of each speaker. The final track, "Pony Up!," is so richly arranged in fact that it reminds me of my beloved Yes, piling sad picked acoustic guitar, tapped echoey electric eerieness, speedy distorted metallic scales, tight Fugazi-esque two-chord hooks, and doubled acoustic sorrow all on top of each other -- this song is SO DAMNED GREAT! Listen to all those different guitar lines and tones piled up on top of each other. It's like "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)" but written by Steve Howe! This is definitely one of my favorite Minus The Bear songs, although it's clearly impossible to replicate onstage unless they tour with seven different guitarists.

Uptempo beats are again in fashion, ranging from the synth fuzz handclap four-on-the-floor disco of "Fine + 2 Pts" to the bitter speed cool of "Let's Play Clowns" through the disturbingly Linkin Park-esque modern rock feel of "Dog Park" through the adrenaline-driven climb-to-the-skies guitar hooks of "Hey! Is That A Ninja Up There?" to that Yessy one I mentioned earlier. So that's five uptempo songs out of six, and the remaining one is a wonderfully wispy, terrifically tappy beautiful ballad fearfully filled wistfully with torrential tears and also nice neat speedy sparkly great guitar bluesy balladic rock runs finely following each exceptional first (fifth) and also third thrilling lyric line. Put 'em all together and that spells 22 minutes of new-fangled sadcore! Although I don't actually think it falls into the subgenre 'sadcore.'

You know, it's really hard to keep up with which 'underground' bands are actually good once you no longer work at a college radio station, so I've been badly 'out of the loop' for over ten years, being kept up to date on developments like spazcore and Load Records only through the kindness of CD-R and MP3-sending readers. If you're aging, married and experiencing the same predicament, please try out Minus The Bear. This is one '00s underground band that I can assure you is well worth your time, particularly if you are interested in creative, surprising guitar interplay and crying.

But I tell you what - "Dog Park" has to go. With those distorted vocals, fake string synths and big stupid chord-driven failed-anthem choruses, it sounds like Linkin Park without the rap! A smarter Linkin Park without the rap, but Linkin Park without the rap nonetheless. And who needs another Linkin Park when we can have another Yes, but more emoey and with a second guitarist and the singer from CKY? Maybe they could change their name to EMOGTRYESCKY!

That guy's a great classical composer, by the way - Emog Tryescky. Have you heard his "Firebird Suite"? It's just a guy driving a Trans Am around for an hour!

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* Menos El Oso - Suicide Squeeze 2005 *
Rating = 10

An absolute 10, Menos El Oso features the band's strongest production, most memorable melodies, most diverse guitarwork and most passable synth lines yet. The axemen are of course still all over the 'interplay' tip, but instead of relying on the old "tapping vs. arpeggiating" gag, they're coming up with strange, bizarre chord conglomerations and note combinations, then mixing them with weird rhythmic guitar noises -- backwards high-pitched 'fweets!,' speed-manipulated call-and-response licks, insanely high plucked passages that sound like electronic pulses, sick bendy chords created either by tremelo bar abuse or infinite delay silliness, purposely ugly too-high-on-the-neck picking of palm-muted strings and lots of just odd-sounding guitar sounds created by fiddling around with the knobs on the delay pedal. This isn't random assdickery though; these are extremely smart and disciplined guitarists manipulating their eqiupment to compose and perfect sad, dark songs that sound unlike any you've ever heard before.

As neat as the guitar tones are, the songs themselves are actually better this time around too -- the up-and-down bendy guitar hook of "Pachuca Sunrise" would sound terrific on a solo piano, as would the seemingly simple but catchy note line of "Hooray," the pissed-off hard rock riff of "Fulfill The Dream," and several other pieces of fine musical work that shall remain nameless because I already turned off the CD. The vocal melodies still make the songs sound more interchangeable than they actually are, but again, this only stands out because all of the music is so goddamned outstanding. The songs constantly change, develop and build, piling on seemingly infinite numbers of counterpointing melodic and rhythmic ideas, but doing so in a perfectly radio-friendly way. Why is this band not huge yet? Is their music just too somber to win over the partytime DJ's?

The lyrical matter hasn't changed as far as I can tell, except that they are no longer doing the 'funny song title' thing. The one lyric that does stand out from the pack is "El Torrente," told from the point of view of a cop who is extremely disturbed by the sight of a murdered 14-year-old girl because he has a 4-year-old daughter at home. Over and over and over, he prays, "Please let my girl go/Without knowing what I know/Don't let her read this day/On my face when I come home."

And if I sound like I'm being too harsh on the singer, let me stress that he is one of the two fucking brilliant guitar players that I keep raving about. And again, his voice isn't bad at all! You will definitely like it when you hear it; it's always note-perfect and low enough to sound like a man. It's just that he sounds the same in every song. Never shows any emotion. Just sings each word on a note, usually takes the same sort of up-and-down steps. Doesn't take any chances - never whispers or screams. Never lets his voice crack or fade. Oh well. It's still better than the band being instrumental or having Geddy Lee singing or something.

I demand you buy this album and listen to all the cool different shit that the guitars are doing. Take note of the awrsomely tight riddim sexion too. And at least 7 of the songs are uptempo so you'll tap your foot as the tears fall!

Hey! It's New Year's Eve! What are you doing tonight? You're getting drunk and watching The Adult Version of Jekyll & Hide, then going to a Mexican restaurant and trying to get your wife to have sex with you? Hey! Me too!

Here's a New Year's Eve joke for you, to get you going and excited for the fireworks display and leap second:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
New Year's Eve!
New Year's Eve who?
No no, you heard me wrong. It's Nude Beer Steve! Let me in - it's COLD out here!

That sucked. Let me try again.

What's the difference between New Year's Eve and rapper Eminem?
One sees a ball drop in Times Square at midnight; the other sees a ball drop on his nose every night!

That sucked too. Merry Christmas!

Reader Comments

nerd.orange@mail.inet.hr (Narantxa)
"beer commercials" is a neat record but this is one of the most boring records i've listened to in 2005. looks like you'll never run out of surprises...

hunt125@msn.com (Hunter)
I saw this album and "Highly Refined Pirates", and considering your review (with it being an "aboslute ten" and all) and that it was a buck cheaper than the latter, I decided to pick it up.

Well, although I wouldn't call it close to an absolute 10 (I'm thinking more along 8 with pleasant remarks), it was a very nice little quirky album. Not exactly fist banging mania or anything, but hey, if you happen to be dating a college student who wears those box rim glasses you see all over, it could lead to some FINGER BANGIN' MANIA if you catch my fish! Eh?? EH????

I've been thinking about launching a novelty soda chain based upon famous black metal bands. Thus far I've got Mercyful Grape and Mayhem Mellon Death Crush, but don't tell anybody about this because I seriously think the members of these two groups are really gonna go for my pitch. Maybe "A Blaze In The Orange Sky" too. Eh...actually, no. But those other two are keepers.

Now that I think about it, maybe I should've saved that whole "finger banging mania" thing for My Bloody Valentine.

In final retrospect, that last sentance was perhaps a little icky. Agh.

Mark, I think you may have given these guys the ten too soon. These new songs Iíve heard up on youtube are fucking incredible. Knights and Ice Monster could be their two best songs up to this point. And I disagree with you about their weakness too. I donít think itís the vocals, I think itís occasionally their choruses. Panchuca Sunrise is a great example. The verses are extraordinary but Iím let down by a comparatively weak dance-punk chorus. Anyway, these new songs arenít like that at all. The choruses take charge and really get in your head. That new one they put up on their site is weird (but interesting guitar stuff like youíd expect) and who knows how itíll play out over a whole album but Planet of Ice sounds promising so far.

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Interpretaciones Del Oso - Suicide Squeeze 2007
Rating = 3

Member Of Minus The Bear: "Hay, I have a great idea!"

Other Members Of Minus The Bear: "What is it?"

Member Of Minus The Bear: "Let's take our best album yet, and hand the master tapes over to a bunch of no-talent assholes so they can replace the fast driving beats and haunting guitar interplay with a tape of a guy rubbing his dick on a synthesizer!"

Other Members Of Minus The Bear: "I like it!"

PR Representative Of Minus The Bear: "Mark Prindle is a racist, sexist homophobe who jokes about things that should not be joked about."

Members Of Minus The Bear: "Who?"

Yes, Interpretaciones Del Oso must have seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, who doesn't love such DJ production wizards as rap's Stefon Leron Alexander, eccentric multi-instrumentalist Andrew Broder, experimental composer Tyondai Braxton, lo-fi electronic trio IQU and/or underground rap producer Brendon Whitney? I've never heard any of them, but you have and you LOVE them! So why did they insist on making all these great songs sound so boring???

I shall now rewrite a few quotes from my Menos El Oso review to reflect the nature of this remix release:

"An absolute 10, Menos El Oso features the band's strongest production, most memorable melodies, most diverse guitarwork and most passable synth lines yet" should now read "A low 3, Interpretaciones Del Oso features distorted, echoey vocals, no memorable melodies, almost no guitarwork and FUCK THIS SHIT IT'S BORING!!!"

"the up-and-down bendy guitar hook of 'Pachuca Sunrise' would sound terrific on a solo piano, as would the seemingly simple but catchy note line of 'Hooray,' the pissed-off hard rock riff of 'Fulfill The Dream,' and several other pieces of fine musical work that shall remain nameless" should now read "the dull generic emo ballad 'Pachuca Sunrise' would sound terrific buried in a hole in the desert, as would the ironic '80s Love Boat-style disco synth of 'Hooray,' the boring stupid ping-pongy synth noises of 'Fulfill The Dream,' and several other THIS STINKS SO FUCKING BAD!!!!"

"And at least 7 of the songs are uptempo so you'll tap your foot as the tears fall" should now read "And at least part of 1 song is uptempo but the rest are SLOWER THAN MOLASSES BEING POURED UP THE REMIXERS' FAT LAZY SHITTY ASSES!!!!"

"What's the difference between New Year's Eve and rapper Eminem?
One sees a ball drop in Times Square at midnight; the other sees a ball drop on his nose every night!"
should now read

"What's the difference between New Year's Eve and this CD?

Actually, two of the remixes are good. Oktopus from Dalek converts "The Game Needed Me" into a hypnotic, heavy, dark mountain of bass fuzz and melancholy guitar drone, and O. Hunter from the Blood Brothers replaces "The Pig War" with oceans of vocal harmonies, an ascending/descending organ loop and accompanying woodwind/brass instrumentation. But most of the others sound more like Eno soundscapes than actual songs. Do these people even like Minus The Bear!? The main appeal of the goddamned band is the uptempo beats and wicked killer guitar interplay -- not the generic emo chord changes and interchangeable vocal melodies! Will today's top electronic artists and I never see eye to eye on this life-or-death issue of crucial critical import?!?

If this all sounds too exciting to resist, feel free to bid on my copy of the CD, which is gracing ebay at this very moment. Actually, never mind - by the time I post this review, it'll be long gone. So tough tort reform, lady!

That is a fantastic new cliche' I've just come up with. Please use it often and let's make "Tough tort reform, lady!" the feel-good hit of the Cliche' Summer!

Possible Uses:

Teacher: "You got a 40 on your political science exam."
You: "Tough tort reform, lady! Now change my civil law system before I drop my civil BALL in your system!"

Senator Hillary Clinton: "I believe this legislation will improve the efficiency of the civil law system."
You: "Tough tort reform, lady! The only efficiency you improve is that of me losing my BONER, you wrinkly old bag!"

Judge Windbag: "There are too many frivolous lawsuits."
You: "Tough tort reform, lady! Now give me 4 billion dollars before I bang you with MY gavel, you robe-wearing WHORE!!!"

Lady: "Is tort reform tough?"
You: "No."

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Planet Of Ice - Suicide Squeeze 2007
Rating = 7

Much like The Dillinger Escape Plan with Miss Machine, Minus The Bear have herein followed up a masterpiece of unique artistic vision by expanding their palette to such a degree that they now just sound more like everybody else. And believe me, I fully understand if they felt they'd taken the original Minus The Bear approach as far as they could with Menos El Oso (similarly, how would you have crafted a follow-up to Calculating Infinity!?), but by downplaying their incredible and wonderful guitar interplay, they're simply drawing attention to the fact that many of their songs aren't terribly melodic.

A mere two out of ten songs (the fantastic "Burying Luck" and "Knights") sound like vintage Minus The Bear; the rest trade anxious uptempo beats for midtempo blah, and novel spellbinding guitar approaches for basic chord and note sequences. Their instrumental and recording approach still involves two stereo-separated guitars playing different, interweaving parts, but there are far too many instances where these parts just aren't very difficult or (more importantly) interesting. By opening up the tight, insular Minus The Bear sound to such influences as '70s hard rock, electric blues, cocktail music, girl-pop, lounge jazz and mid-'70s Pink Floyd, they've simultaneously created their most diverse and least creative CD to date.

The most disturbing development, however, is an increased focus on eroticism in both the lyrics and music. It's one thing for cartoon bands like Foreigner and Bad Company to grind their hips and shout about making sweet love, but something else entirely (and uncomfortably) for a serious independent rock band to come out with such seXXXy LEERics as "Her body's over the covers, and there's nothing wrong with a single inch/And then we change positions; she got me on my back, losing my common sense" and "Do you feel the beat?/I see you do by the way you move/I need to feel your body moving on me" and "Will he take her love?/Will his hands know what mine did?/Will your body like the fit?" Is Mick Jagger writing lyrics for them now or something? Who the hell thinks like this in 2007?

But it's not just the lyrics. Musically, these songs also showcase a determined move away from intelligent driving rock toward a slicker erotic feel -- "When We Escape" is dark nightclub seduction music, "White Mystery" is seXXXy post-seduction fuCCCk music, "Throwin' Shapes" reeks of girly next-day giddiness, and "Double Vision Quest" is soulful mood music for a later, more romantic round of lovemaking. See the problem here? I'm a guy. I want to MAKE sex, not listen to a band attempt to approximate the experience.

Weirdly, this aggressively female-friendly approach is paired with a blatantly macho (and GREAT!) insurgence of '70s hard rock riffage, even in some of the very same songs! Seriously, you'll be going along listening to them do their little minor-key sweat and tears boy/girl thing and all of a sudden the guitarists will start wailing away at a killer crunchy Zeppelin riff! And this happens in several songs ("Knights," "Dr. L'Ling" and "Double Vision Quest" to name a few that I remember).

And if it's REAL female repellent you want, how about some Pink Floyd homage? "Part 2" is a perfect recapturing of the deadening alienated Wish You Were Here mood, complete with Gilmour-soundalike lead guitar and what almost sounds like a calculated attempt to sing like him too. Furthermore, the extended ending of "Lotus" is total Floyd, from its space freakout noise break to the extended David-Gilmour-soloing-over-Rick-Wright-chord-changes ending.

But that's hardly a good sign, is it? That out of the 5 Planet Of Ice songs I honestly love, 2 made the list simply because they sound like another band I like a lot?

Seriously, next time they should just cover Atom Heart Mother and leave the boner music at home.

Okay, I have to go try to fix my computer for the 500 thousandth time. Thank you, Hewlett-Packard, for sending me the wrong recovery discs. And thank you also for sending me a replacement set two days later -- of the exact same WRONG recovery discs. Finally, thank you for making me waste two fucking hours every single fucking night on the phone with your automated 'customer service' machine and a bunch of people who don't know anything about computers and ask me the same fucking questions over and over again until I start screaming at them and they put me on hold for 20 minutes.

But you know their slogan: "Hewlett Packard: We're A Bunch of Assholes!"

Reader Comments

I agree, I haven't listened to this in a while but I remember liking it. One song in particular I thought was really, really awesome. maybe it was the ones you thought were fantastic. It sucks I was raving about this band to my elitist friend, he downloaded this album and basically formed an opinion off this album. I told him Menos El Oso is amazing but he wouldn't bother getting it. But I don't care because he loves the Mars Volta way to much and I don't think they are that great anymore. Oh wellz, It is nice to see your site back and running and those Joni Mitchell reviews were uproarious or something.

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Acoustics EP - iTunes 2008
Rating = 6

Have you heard this new Britney Spears single!? Unbelievable! I thought I'd heard everything! But, as it turns out, I hadn't heard NUTHIN' yet! Here it is:

by Britney Spears

Gigantic smelly poop of love, sweet baby
Gigantic smelly poop of love
Blow it out your ass
And throw it in the trash
Gigantic smelly poop of love

(*bowel solo*)

See??? Am I crazy or should that kind of foul imagery be disallowed to infest our childrens' brains courtesy of the radio waves?! Next thing you know, Little Tommy and Sue will be throwing their movements in the ashcan! "Oh, but that's what Britney says to do, Ma!" will become the national refrain of a stinky, odorific nation. How will we compete with the Chinese?

In other music news, Linus The Bear would be a great name for a Minus The Bear tribute act, particularly if it was literally a giant grizzly bear named Linus, who played guitar and sang. On a related note, Minus The Bear's new Acoustics EP is available only as a digital download, and you've never seen a more disappointed group of Amish people. That one over there's so upset, he's wringing his beard like an old mop! Look at him! LOOK AT HIM!!!!

Come on, use your imagination. I try to create a magical world of sight and sound for you, and you just sit there staring at the computer like an old sock. Well, can an old sock do THIS!?

(*covers foot and ankle so that a shoe feels more comfortable*)


Funny thing about an acoustic guitar. When the main appeal of your band is 'the neat ways the guy plays the electric guitar,' your discography isn't likely to survive the unplugged crossover unscathed. Although the one new song, "Guns & Ammo," is a solid melancholy addition to their catalog, most of the six acoustic re-recordings aren't just inferior to their original versions: they're downright boring. Such is the risk you take when every song you write has the same mood and vocal style.

The non-disc MP3 collection of air that you pay money for includes "Guns & Ammo" plus MTV Unplugged versions of 4 Planet of Ice songs and 1 each from Menos El Oso and Highly Refined Pirates. Interestingly, the POI songs fare much better in this context than the earlier tracks; "Burying Luck" and "Throwing Shapes" may not be the most scintillating performances of their career, but they sure beat heck out of the unconscionably boring "We Are Not A Football Team" and "Pachuco Sunrise," the latter of which used to be a F--------in' great M--------AssFucking song! Could this suggest that Planet Of Ice actually has stronger songwriting than its predecessor, and that Menos El Oso is really just a paper house of impressive guitar techniques with no melodic foundation? Hmm. These are thoughts which might occupy one's mind.

Although the acoustic guitar interplay is as tight and beautiful as a 4-year-old's anus, the b

Although the acoustic guitar interplay is as tight and beautiful as a 4-foot-long danish, the only melodies that register are "Guns & Ammo," the uptempo "Knights" (GREAT song! Download this one! Even if you have to spend money for it!) and the singalongable "Ice Monster," which in fact I think I'll sing along to right now: "She's gone! She's GO-ONE! 'Cross the border, man. And you're never gonna see her again!" That was great, I should do that in every review.

It is a well-recorded non-CD wisp of sound waves floating through the ether for a nominal fee, and features piano and electric piano, as well as bass, drums, vocals and two acoustic guitars.

Steve Albini's message board is disappointed in me for appearing on Fox News. :7(

I guess this is how Kurt Cobain felt when Nirvana signed to Geffen.

Well, except Geffen didn't propogate lies that dragged our nation into an illegal war that has killed thousands of innocent people.

Well okay, they did. But nobody could've predicted the tragic impact of that Gn'R album.

But come on, it's not like CMT is going to invite me back after that whole "I set Toby Keith's mustache on fire, purposely, over and over again" incident.

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Omni - Dangerbird 2010
Rating = 2

Hi! I'm Iceland's Edkbkdfltchkswxcxkbmll Volcano. You know, one of the things that's kept me cool and collected all these years has been my love of fine music. I admit I threw a hissy fit when von Weber shat out that Der Freischutz piece of crap in 1821, but other than that I'm proud of the maturity and self-control that I've displayed over the millenia. Alas, I was only five minutes into the new Minus The Bear CD before I felt a gigantic reeking flood of fiarrhea spraying out my icehole.

I'd like to publicly apologize to Mark Prindle's wife and all the other folks who are currently stranded in Europe due to my unfortunate bowel problems. But how was I to know that Omni was going to be so bad -- so horribly boring and worthless -- that all the lava in my body would evacuate without so much as a warning? Come on, you can't expect a volcano to have that kind of foresight, particularly when the band has been so good up to this point. And the clump of dirt in Jake Snider's backyard certainly didn't warn me before he sent the CD-R!

Here's the issue, from a volcano's point of view: the only thing this band ever had going for it was their unique and captivating guitarwork. The melodies themselves have always just been generic soundalike wistful songs for girls. So what do you think happens when Minus The Bear decides not to bother with the innovative guitarwork anymore? Bingo! They suck a geyser's dick! Forget the finger-tapping and weird rhythmic noise that made their early material such a prize; all you get here is corny synth wiggles and plain jane nothing-to-it guitarwork. Never mind the speedy fretwork and uptempo drums that gave Menos El Oso its power; they've moved on to simplistic ball-less alt-rock calculated to make girls think they're sensitive pained artists who just need to be loved.

FUCK YOU MINUS THE BEAR. Consider adding a second mood to your repertoire, you one-trick New Romantic bores. That's really all I'm trying to say with the gigantic clouds of ash that I'm spewing all over Europe. Well, that and "Hey singer guy, your songs would probably sound a lot more emotional if you sang them with even a single ounce of feeling." Minus The Bear? More like "Minus EVERYTHING THAT WAS EVER GOOD ABOUT THEM," if you ask me!

Aside from an occasional funk/soul riff, these songs are complete retreads of their past material, just played more boringly. I can only assume they're doing it to attract girls, because melodically, instrumentally and vocally, there is absolutely nothing going on here that would appeal to an actual music fan. But what do I know? I'm just a vent in the earth's crust through which lava, steam, ashes, etc., are expelled, either continuously or at irregular intervals!

Okay, I gotta stop talking about this terrible record or I'm gonna have the burning shits for another six months. But I'll leave you with a little rhyme I wrote a few years back:

Born to love the Dead Milkmen
Seen 'em on PBS
Born to love the Dead Milkmen
My glacier is a mess

That's as far as I got. Hey, off my dick! I'm inanimate!

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Minus The Bear CDs both used and new available HERE!

Click here to return to the site of Paul McCartney's favorite online record reviewer, Mark Prindle!

(The preceding statement does not necessarily reflect the views of Paul McCartney)