Listening to Infinity Overhead, the fifth studio album from Seattle indie-rockers Minus the Bear, a couple of things come to mind—just being honest here:
- Minus the Bear is an acquired taste. You might have to immerse yourself a bit in their music to get a feel for what they are about. (I didn’t like them the first couple of listens, but they grew on me.)
- When they’re “on,” they’re really on. And when they aren’t…well…
As to the first point, like many indie rock bands, Minus the Bear leans toward the experimental side of things, even within their own journey as a band. Case in point: their previous release, Omni. That record took a clear detour from guitar driven indie-rock to electro-pop, for whatever reason. If you only heard that record as an example of Minus the Bear, you wouldn’t get a clear picture of who they are. This is a band you need to sit with awhile in order to understand their range and vibe. Infinity Overhead, by the way, takes them back into more familiar territory.
As to the second—let’s just say that if first impressions were an indicator, I would have written this album off with the opening track, “Steel and Blood.” While it’s got a great groove, the melody feels non-existent, like frontman Jake Snider is just looking for notes to sing that won’t suck against the backdrop of the music. I get a similar feeling with “Empty Party Rooms.” These songs either needed a serious rewrite, or needed to be dropped from the track list.
But thankfully, I kept listening, because the rest of the album is a home run, as far as I’m concerned. Plenty of diversity in the sounds, fantastic guitar work, poignant lyrics, and very creative artistry overall. I love the funky groove of “Lies and Eyes,” the haunting pathos of “Heaven Is a Ghost Town,” and the big guitars of the closing track “Cold Company.”
While some might dismiss Infinity Overhead as a shadow of Minus the Bear’s earlier work, in my opinion, this is a band that can’t rightfully be judged album to album. This is a band on a journey, and this album is one more leg of that journey. Infinity Overhead is not without its missteps, but taken in the light of the rest of their discography, it is a natural progression for them.