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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘OMNI’ a total success

    Minus The Bear

    OMNI

    Dangerbird Records

    To be released May 4, 2010

     

    Score: A

     

    Known for an expansive repertoire of samples and sound manipulations, Minus The Bear has grown from a relatively unknown math rock band to a Billboard-charting independent player. Their newest release, OMNI, finds Minus The Bear blending their signature electro-rock with a digital funk. In many ways, OMNI is the spiritual sequel to 2005’s Menos el Oso rather than 2007’s Planet of Ice.

    Compared to Planet, OMNI feels much more focused and in-line with Minus The Bear’s trajectory up until that aberrant recording. Not to rag on Planet, but it gave in far too many times to its aspirations of being the second coming of Yes. With OMNI, Minus The Bear ditches that album’s abstract nature and prog rock theatrics, in favor of intense and welcoming tunes that aren’t afraid of getting fresh.

    Immediately, the album feels more comfortable than Planet. The chorus of the opener “”My Time”” features jubilant key fills and open-ended bass walks. Trading in elaborate production for effervescence pays off. The band’s newfound emphasis on call-response vocalization gives the song a friendly atmosphere that could propel the band’s sound from collegiate headphones to club speakers.

    Similarly, “”The Thief”” dances between switchback synth strokes and noodling guitar, before cascading into their single, “”Into The Mirror.”” One of the album’s strongest tracks, “”Into The Mirror”” showcases incredible synth manipulations and sounds just like the coke and hooker-fueled party its lyrics portray. It’s like the band caught the sound of the ’80s as told by Bret Easton Ellis in a bottle and held it up to a microphone.

    The strong sense of excitement on OMNI does not detract from the band’s musical propensity. On “”Secret Country,”” intricate guitar work bleeds out from the chorus into glimpses of guitarist Dave Knudson’s previous post-hardcore days with Botch. Sonically dense, the song builds to a crushing churn of guitar wails and key strokes.

    Discrete production by Joe Chicarelli (of U2 and Radiohead fame) fuses such sounds together, allowing complex melodies to enhance each other like a good stew. Such symbiosis is evident on “”Excuses,”” a track boasting dual-layered vocals, synthesizer, piano and clean guitar strokes over ecstatic drumming. This near-orgiastic approach to musicianship lends a commanding — but not overwhelming — sense of proportion to OMNI.

    The tastefully seductive lyrics of the closer “”Fooled by the Night”” further the band’s ability to write sensual, complex love stories. “”He put the right music on. That music led her astray. / Touching her just like he should. She was headed that way.”” While their music doesn’t drop the panties like Nat King Cole, Minus The Bear has always had an intimate sound and a classy voice for sexual encounters. On OMNI, the band gleefully returns to its laidback lyrical vibe regrettably absent from Planet.

    As far as poolside records go, OMNI enters the early months of summer as a contender for best backyard jam. With hooks galore and a strong sense of identity, Minus The Bear affirms that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you OMNI.

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