Minus the Bear – Menos El Oso
Release Date: August 23, 2005
Record Label: Suicide Squeeze
Minus the Bear has returned with their highly anticipated sophomore full-length. The appropriately titled Menos El Oso (meaning Minus the Bear in Spanish) is different from the band’s previous works, but still distinctly Minus the Bear. MTB is known for electro-rock songs full of finger tapping work on the guitar, with lyrics about girls, booze, women, alcohol, and more drinking. While Menos El Oso is a bit toned down from their previous releases, the lyrics are still dark and witty, and the music is as unique as ever. Minus the Bear is so very different from other bands out there in the sense that they are extremely talented song writers. Instead of settling for cheap hooks and choruses, Minus the Bear writes songs that get better with ever listen. Menos El Oso is an album that I was grossly unimpressed with upon first listen. The overall tempo is slower than the band’s earlier releases, the music seems to be less technical at first glance (not really the case), and the whole album just seemed to drag. Then, after weeks and weeks of constant listening, Menos El Oso has grown to be one of my favorite albums this year. As it gets better with each listen, I realized that Minus the Bear has created a brilliant album, full of mid-tempo songs that contain melodies in all kinds of places. In almost every track, you’ll find yourself singing along to the guitar line or the bouncing bass line instead of the vocal melody. The songwriting displayed on Menos El Oso is outstanding.
The album is full of standout tracks, including the first song “The Game Needed Me,” in which Minus the Bear makes it perfectly clear that they’ve changed from their earlier releases. An obscure song with a swaying flow to it, after a few listens it’s impossible to not swing your shoulders along with every dip and turn to the beat. Subtle guitar parts are interjected within verses, making the songs remain interesting even after repeated listening. This is not just a trait of this song, this is a trademark of Minus the Bear, and this album in particular. “Memphis & 53rd” and “Hooray” have deep, walking bass lines that balance with amazing vocals and neatly placed guitar licks. One thing that continually blows my mind about this record is how perfectly everything is placed. There are zero awkward transitions; each verse is enhanced by just the right guitar effect. The timing of drum fills always seems to come in the right place, as songs refuse to become predictable. Minus the Bear is fairly math-rock oriented at time, and the use of electronic effects only adds to the unpredictability of the record. The great thing is, the songs never get annoying in that sense, nor do they catch you off-guard, everything is just a nice, pleasant surprise.
“Fufill the Dream” sings about an encounter at a bar, but the real interest in this song lies within the music. Minus the Bear uses some sort of bizarre backwards guitar riff throughout the song, culminating in a Tokyo space-rock sounding bridge with stuttered picking that sounds like its straight out of a Japanese movie – check it out, it’s really interesting. Other songs provide even more unique effects. Minus the Bear is a band whose songs have always sounded the same to me, due to the distinct finger-tapping utilized on their previous two releases. But this album combines finger-tapping with picking way high up on the guitar, electronic effects, bouncy bass-lines, and an overall groove feel. Even on the slower tracks, like “El Torrente,” the music still has a great flow to it.
Minus the Bear has released one of the top five albums of the year, flat out. Each song has a unique distinction to it, the songwriting is incredible, and you will find yourself singing along to far more than just the vocals. Menos El Oso will take you tap your fingers, it’ll make you sway your shoulders, and then it’ll make you get up and dance. Put aside your pop-punk albums for just two seconds and give this album a chance, because this is the perfect summer album. With phenomenal lasting value and innovative musicianship, Minus the Bear is the band that should be dominating your stereo this summer. Do not miss this release.