Sound: You can always rely on the exciting debut, the difficult' second album and the difficult' third album, but when a band puts out its fourth effort us journalists run out of clichs to lean on, at least until a twenty year anniversary or new lineup or something. Luckily, Minus The Bear have no need for crutches their 2002 debut Highly Refined Pirates' was so fantastic and so often imitated that retaining that sound strictly would have seen them become a self-parody. The transformation that was taking place over Menos El Oso' and Planet Of Ice' is finally complete; they've recalibrated, from a quaint, guitar-driven band to a group of gentlemen, suave as anything, with less time signature hopping and more room carved out for vocals and keyboards.
The opener, My Time', is confident in its sublime catchiness, but it is somewhat deceptive as, just like the last couple of albums, Omni' is a grower. There are a few tracks that stand out on the first run through, mostly those with obvious vocal hooks and the more familiar sounds of the Snider/Knudson guitar partnership, but once you've settled into the album, some of the more reserved tracks feel it's safe to come out, and it's tracks like Excuses' and Secret Country' that end up with substantially more lasting appeal. // 8
Lyrics: Unfortunately, when I referred to Minus The Bear as gentlemen', I was strictly talking about the music, which you'll no doubt have worked out if you've heard the seedy verses of My Time' or Into The Mirror'. Rarely does Jake Snider leave the comfortable middle ground vocally; it's all very safe, and difficult to dislike, but what good is safe' when your main topics are love, sex and the night life? It's difficult to be engaged by his stories sometimes, but the melodies are very strong indeed, taking the driving seat more than ever before. There are a couple of pieces that manage to get it spot-on in both departments though, especially the beautiful Fooled By The Night', with quality delivery and We Are Not A Football Team'-style charm making them all the sweeter. // 7
Overall Impression: So, after all that, what does the fourth album represent? Sometimes it's the point at which a band becomes comfortable with their style, but Minus The Bear are too experimental for that. Sometimes it's the point at which a band runs out of ideas, but that certainly isn't the case here. What it does represent is this band's assured ability to deal with their need to change with equal parts creativity and responsibility. For all its diversity, Omni' has been kept under pretty strict quality control and is precisely executed, which is especially impressive when you consider that most of it was tracked in single continuous takes. Their best effort since ...Pirates', and one of the better releases of its kind this year. // 9
- Duncan Geddes aka duncang (c) 2010