Minus The Bear - Highly Refined Pirates (Cover Artwork)

Minus The Bear

Highly Refined Pirates (2003)

Suicide Squeeze

Minus The Bear is a band many people don't know about yet. Sad thing is, it will probably stay that way as well. Their rather unique blend of emo and synth-pop makes them an acquired taste to most - you either like it, or you don't. With Minus The Bear, there is no in-between. I, for one, find myself liking their debut full-length, Highly Redefined Pirates.

As stated before, Minus The Bear is a band built around the use of keyboards and synths to give their music depth, atmosphere, and a rather relaxing tone. Most of these songs are songs you probably could fall asleep to; not because they are long and boring, but rather because they are very soothing and easy on the ears. Jake Snider's vocals sound wonderful on this debut, as his airy voice floats over the music. The drums are also very noteworthy here, for drummer Erin Tate will go from full-on playing to soft drum rolls, even throwing a drum machine beat or two in there somewhere. Many of the songs are softer in nature, but a few are very upbeat and almost danceable (I shit you not). It adds for variety, and more importantly, fun. There's nothing too complex or mind-blowing on this release, but it does make for a very good and easy listen.

The first thing you will notice are the very silly and irrelevant song titles. Some of them are funny, but Minus The Bear is no Dillinger Four or Curl Up And Die. As for the songs, there are fourteen of them, five of which are instrumental "interludes", if you will, which utilize the synths to the max, almost creating a techno feel. The other nine tracks include vocals, and are very diverse. Highly Redefined Pirates starts with "Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco", which immediately showcases the keyboards, as this song is laced with fun keyboard beeps all over the place. Every time I listen to this song, I find myself singing the line "Our girls are looking so good..." way after this CD shuts off. This song gets especially good towards the end. "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!" is next, and it is probably the most rocking track on the CD. The highly atmospheric synth intro and the louder choruses make this song a winner. The dual keyboard/guitar part in the bridge is amazing, and makes me want to bust a move like no other song has ever done. "Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse" (what the hell?) is forgettable, but the next real track (preceded by an instrumental), "Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo" is phenomenal. It's a mid-tempo song, but it has a very chill quality about it, and it makes me just want to sing along. The organ in the background of this song is great. If I had to pick a favorite song off of this CD, this would be it. "We Are Not A Football Team" is a very, very soft song, and once again, the organ mixed with the guitar sounds great on this song. After another instrumental track, "Spritz!!! Spritz!!!" wakes you up with a very upbeat guitar part and inventive bass line. "Women We Haven't Met Yet" reminds me a lot of "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!", and it is every bit as good, with really good vocals and held-out notes. "I Lost All My Money At The Cockfights" (which comes after ANOTHER interlude!) is a real weak and boring song, sorry to say. I don't like the vocal effects in this song, but the end of it is pretty good. Sandwiched in-between two more instrumentals, the final "real" song, "Let's Play Guitar In A Five Guitar Band", is an excellent song, and I love the way the line "She was something else..." is sung. The tempo changes and piano parts are welcome additions as well. I dislike how the album ends on a short instrumental, but hey, what can you do? I'll take what I got.

Like I said before, this album is not for everyone, but for those who do have a taste for this kind of music will find themselves immersed in Minus The Bear's debut CD. I know I was. Highly recommended.

Standout Tracks:

"Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!"
"Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo"
"Spritz!!! Spritz!!!"
"Let's Play Guitar In A Five Guitar Band"