Minus the Bear – Omni

Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me. Since their debut, Minus the Bear have made one improvement after the other, with each record they release topping its predecessor. After Menos el Oso and Planet of Ice, I figured it was about time for these boys to finally craft their masterpiece. Well, apparently, they slipped on the ice. It pains me to say (not really) that Omni is just another fuck-up record to break any hopes we might have had for this band to become anything greater than just another easy-listening my-first-indie rock band.

Omni sees Minus the Bear make a rather awkward (get ready to hear me use this word a lot in this review) return-to-form. While Menos el Oso and Planet of Ice may have led one to believe that this fairly large supergroup of punk-imbibed teen bands (including the venerable mathcore band Botch) were on their course to retire their whole high-school sex and humor mantra, Omni skews the progression back several years. They’re just as overtly sexual now as they were at the beginning of the decade, except without the humor that proved they didn’t take themselves seriously. This incongruous combination of Planet of Ice gravitas and Highly Refined Pirates libido makes for one of the most awkward 50 minutes I have had all year.

Jake Snider, Jake Snider, Jake Snider. In the review of Planet of Ice that I wrote for Avery Island a while back, I commented briefly on Snider’s singing, particularly its weakness on a background of technically outstanding (in the literal sense) guitar work. Well, Mr. Snider is still lead singer and in the much more pop-oriented context of Omni, his voice is nothing less, or perhaps nothing more, than awkward. On opener “My Time,” Snider mumbles supposedly seductive lines like “Turn off the lights/ And touch me in the dark” and “Whisper in my ear/ What you want/ What you need” with the same telemarketer’s detachment he sings in every other song. Even when Rachel Flotard takes over on “Into the Mirror,” the vocals stay nothing more than just another texture, as transient and unmemorable as the bass or the keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong; this is far from a terrible album. Sure, the arrangements are far from boring, the melodies can be catchy, and these boys sure have some crisp-sounding guitars. And I admit it, I’m in love with the song “Summer Angel.” Even if Omni was one big innuendo (which it’s not), I’m in no way implying that sex in music is necessarily a bad thing; just look at Blood Sugar Sex Magik or more recently The xx’s debut to prove otherwise. It’s merely unfortunate that the technical prowess of these guys has to be relegated to an immature rehashing of the works of 90’s greats like Pele and the Dismemberment Plan. And now with them adding a new, highly stereotyped spin on musical sexuality, you can bear witness to them stealing Red Hot Chili Peppers funk guitar, particularly on the aptly-named “The Thief,” to throw haphazardly in the otherwise spacious context of their reverb- and delay-heavy compositions.

“Oh, but they use computers and electronic beats sometimes. Those other guys didn’t!” Yep, the Bears sure do. Just listen to opener “My Time” and you’ll hear some of the tackiest electric arrangements I’ve heard since Hologram Jams, which, to be fair, wasn’t too long ago anyway. Minus the Bear and Jaguar Love aren’t too far from the same tree, either, being loosely related by Morgan Henderson of Sharks Keep Moving and the Blood Brothers, both progenitors of the Bears and Jaguars respectively.

I guess it’s only natural, considering the band’s punk and hardcore roots in groups as abrasive as Botch and Kill Sadie, that they would never accomplish that transcendent beauty they seem to be seeking so hard, at least not without sprinkling in some teen callousness to foul up the whole affair. This review officially makes Minus the Bear the first band we’ve ever reviewed a second album for on Avery Island. What a shame.




by Mason “We don’t need another Kings of Leon” McGough


1 Comment

  1. New Review: Minus the Bear – Omni « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Minus the Bear – Omni, by Mason McGough […]

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