Minus the Bear
When the members of Minus the Bear first convened in a dingy practice space in 2001, there were few expectations for the project other than providing a reason for the five drinking buddies to hang out, have a few laughs, and write some idiosyncratic pop songs. Seattle had just closed out a decade of living in a cultural spotlight due to their city’s penchant for loud, earnest, brooding rock music, and the guys in Minus the Bear seemed to take pleasure in writing songs that were the antithesis to the ‘90s heavy-handed big-riff gloom. All the members had done their time pedaling angst and frustration in other music projects, so it seemed to make sense to offset that vitriol with cerebral pop songs. Their debut EP, This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic, with its nimble guitar work, observational lyrics, complex hooks, and four-on-the-floor dance beats, proved to be a breath of fresh air in a city that lived under a bank of black clouds nine months out of the year.
Over the course of the next four years, Minus the Bear demonstrated that they were more than just some flashy playful indie pop act. Sure, their first full-length album Highly Refined Pirates still displayed some levity in its aesthetics, as if the band was one-degree removed from the often overly serious indie rock world, but the frivolous elements of the band belied their forward-thinking instrumentation, razor-sharp chops, and forthright lyrical vignettes. Even still, the band were on a mission to shed the remaining vestiges of their whimsy when they released their sophomore album Menos el Oso in the late summer of 2005. The lush, intricate two-handed tapping guitar lines that defined their early work were replaced with glitchy guitar samples and effects pedal manipulations. The big, boomy room sounds of their previous records were ditched in favor of air-tight, in-your-face drum tones. Their melodies took a turn toward minor keys. Even their lyrics seemed to hint that the late night parties and escapes from the city described on their past records were now tainted by some hard life lessons. Minus the Bear had always taken their craft seriously, but Menos el Oso was their first record where the overall tone of the album matched the stern discipline of their musicianship.
It was a bit of a gamble to follow up the buoyant guitar gymnastics of their debut album with a full-length that throbbed with staccato riffs, sepia-toned lyrics, and an almost electronic pulse. But it wound up being a pivotal album in Minus the Bear’s trajectory. Not only did Menos el Oso propel the band to bigger audiences, it set a precedent for the band’s future fearlessness in exploring new sonic frontiers. To commemorate this landmark album, Suicide Squeeze offered a 10-year anniversary vinyl edition of Menos el Oso that was released worldwide on December 4, 2015.