Suicide Squeeze, 2017
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/13/2017
On their first studio album in five years, and first with new drummer Kiefer Matthias, Minus The Bear captures a wistful, indie arena rock sound that is both melancholy and approachable, eschewing the self-important strains for credibility or reaching-the-rafters sonic overkill inherent in the genre.
Voids is too restrained and pop-oriented to be considered math rock (like some of MTB’s older albums) but too smart and uncommercial for radio airplay; it’s the sort of confident record that a band makes in its second decade of existence, and the sort where you may miss a few details here and there as you marvel how it all comes together.
“Silver” and “Last Kiss” are the very different highlights. The former is a vaguely progressive hard rocker that probably comes closest to MTB’s mid-2000s sound, and the latter is a hooky pop-rock gem that is easy to get immersed in. Hook after hook flies by on the record, such as on “Tame Beasts,” where one guitar plays a simple six-note riff but leaves spaces between each two-note figure so that the second guitar (on the other speaker) can fill in some color underneath Jake Snider’s very good vocal work and Matthias’ drums. It’s complex and addicting but never insular.
The weaker moments here are when the band slows down into ballad mode, such as “Erase” and “What About The Boat?,” which seem designed as lulls between the more energetic, kinetic songs like “Call The Cops” and especially the standout “Robotic Heart,” in which the guitars buzz and the multi-tracked vocals run rings around each other while the keyboards provide an eerie yet muted sheen.
On the other hand, closer “Lighthouse” is probably the best dream pop song of the last five years. It’s proof that the genre doesn’t have to be mopey, keyboard-intensive, and boring as sin…it just chooses to be. The propulsive solo and electronic overdrive jam that closes out the piece are just the cherry on top.What the listener may notice, if not right away, is that few of the 10 songs ever really settle; other than the ballads, there’s always an edge, a dissatisfaction that pulses through the tracks. Voids may mine familiar territory about heartbreak and emotional turmoil, but it does so through the lens of uneasy maturity and compelling songs that don’t take the easy way out and reward repeated listens.