Review Summary: "Snakes & Arrows" done right.
Minus the Bear gets mad pussy. Well, at least according to Minus the Bear. With Highly Refined Pirates and Menos el Osos, MTB took an intensely methodical and mathy songwriting approach to create music about sex in pools and Atavan. So, what do you do when you’ve gotten more vagina than John Holmes? I guess if you’re Minus the Bear you make a progressive rock album. But, doesn’t that kind of make their tales of romance and drinks on yachts seem a little bit false? I mean Geddy Lee certainly isn’t sneaking into neighbor’s pools and smothering some teen girl with his manhood. So, with Planet of Ice we have a paradox: a bunch of really cool people that are really into progressive rock. And this isn’t just some half assed progressive rock like say you might find on a Chiodos record. No, Planet of Ice is two hand tapping, throwing down five effects at once and drawing out songs to the brinks of seven minutes. Sure, the sex is still present but it isn’t the focus. With Planet of Ice the boys from Seattle have left the Kama Sutra at the door and have decided to give themselves some massive self pleasure. Strange enough masturbation has led them to make their best album yet.
The most key addition on this album is Alex Rose. Synth has always been present on Minus the Bear tracks, but with Planet of Ice the synth is moved to the forefront almost as a challenge to prolific guitarist Dave Knudson. Opener “Burying Luck” demonstrates this perfectly as the verse is heavy with Knudson’s traditional spliced up looping methods but then as the chorus and bridge hit we are filled with more synth than even Wendy Carlos could throw at us. It is epic, interesting, and most importantly different from anything that Minus the Bear has done. I mean even vocalist Jake Snider lets out a few screams on the opener. Maybe we should just place our hopes of a Botch reunion on this band’s next output.
I know that last comparison was out of place but every track on this album is different and there is so much variety. Songs like “Ice Monster” and “When We Escape” bring the hooky choruses that Minus the Bear was known for, while “Knights” and “Lotus” show off how to use a reverb pedal the right way. "Part 2" is completely different from anything MTB has done yet cycling through beautiful acoustic strumming and heavy sampling. Basically, Planet of Ice encompasses every aspect of Minus the Bear’s old sound and creates some new ones to make one of the finest and most sophisticated “pop” albums, released this year or even decade. Much like Battles’ Mirrored, MTB bring a well founded knowledge of technicality and presses it hard into catchy, adrenaline boosting tracks.
So, gone are open condom wrappers and empty pounders of PBR and with them it seems we lost MTB’s youthful expression. The band clearly reaches for some respectability with this album and the serious tone is welcomed but also sad. No one quite does drinking songs like Minus the Bear so let’s hope maybe they decide to venture back into that realm on a future album. For now though I’m satisfied so I’ll just sit back with a bong load and listen to my generation’s 21:12.