Review Summary: The sound of a humid, summer night gone right13 of 14 thought this review was well written
Bands of certain types are especially well-suited when coupled with certain times of the year, specific settings. I can’t think of many settings more satisfying than hot, summer nights and I can’t imagine a band more apt for these instances than Minus the Bear. Rising from the eclectic and under-appreciated ashes of Sharks Keep Moving, Kill Sadie, State Route 522, and Botch (most notably), came a surprisingly conventional indie band, Minus the Bear. The preceding bands were fairly innovative in some way or another, even definitive. Shouldn’t have Minus the Bear, this concoction of ingenuity, trumped them all? Not exactly. With arithmetic-influenced hooks, dynamism, and shifting time signatures, Minus the Bear exerted their muscles; but on Highly Refined Pirates
their sound ultimately fell short of anything ingenious or pioneering.
Thus, when Pitchfork critic Eric Carr jadedly asked, “Why eat hamburger when you can have steak?” referring to Minus the Bear’s supposed mediocrity on Highly Refined Pirates
in his review, he almost had a point. Almost. Carr held Minus the Bear up to the light glimmering off of Jawbox, Built to Spill, and The Dismemberment Plan, and deduced that Highly Refined Pirates
held a candle to none of these veterans. It felt shallow, youthful, and complacent. Instead, where the seasoned critic hears these silly attributes loud and clear, I --a budding listener upon the discovery of Minus the Bear-- found the band at both adroit and
refreshing, youthful; but most of all, fun. Years later, the guitar-tone flavors are as delicious, the lyrics hit as poignantly, and Minus the Bear are as engrossing and touching as ever. Maybe for the connoisseur, hamburger cannot hit the palate the right way; but excuse me for finding a well-crafted hamburger absolutely delectable in this case, because Minus the Bear start out on a heavenly high note with their debut LP, Highly Refined Pirates
Don’t get the wrong idea, this is
a hamburger, after all. I’m sure Minus the Bear were fully conscious of the irony of calling their album “Highly Refined” when the song-subjects rarely stray past the shallow borderlines of boozing, sex, racing yachts, and generally having a fuc
king great time. Consider this: the band’s name is derived from an inside joke regarding a friend of the band who purportedly described a date as, “You that TV show from the 80’s, ‘BJ and the Bear’? Well, it was like that, minus the bear
.” Genius. These sincere sentiments --that Jake Snider seems to know better than any-- are incorporated into the chilled-out, atmospheric, melodies that Minus the Bear mesh together with the skill of seasoned veterans of the genre. Already, the brilliant interplay between Snider’s engrossing vocals and lead guitarist Dave Knudson’s dynamic riffs are beginning to peek through, in “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” and “Women We Haven't Met Yet,” most notably. Interspersed between the songs are brief instrumentals, adding to the effect that Minus the Bear seems to have, of gradually slowing down time, like those summer nights that seem to last forever, if you’ll forgive the cliche. These interludes add to the flow of Highly Refined Pirates
; and like a sweet liquid, the mellifluous album seeps into your ears, without any of the pain of ear infections.
Any summer night when you’re not lucky enough to be racing yachts around the lake, having sex on the beach, or getting drunk in Italy, Highly Refined Pirates
is ample enough to convey these feelings-- or just as potent, reminding you of all those balmy, summer nights you were
. Like it doesn’t take The Iron Chef to cook a mean hamburger, it doesn’t take a lightning bolt of ingenuity and mastery to craft a superb recording. What it does take, as Highly Refined Pirates
displays so proficiently, is a tasteful amalgam of free-flowing, smooth instrumentation coupled with a deep commitment to communicating that feeling you experience during that perfect
, warm summer night.