For some reason, every time I listen to Menos El Oso, Minus The Bear's second full-length album, I feel as if this will be the album to make or break them. Speculating that this eleven-track collection would propel them into the limelight wouldn't be such a far-fetched idea; the band has got tremendous airplay potential (especially here, which will be detailed later), a great "we all used to be in bands with credibility" platform (Botch, Sharks Keep Moving, Kill Sadie, etc.), and tongue-in-cheek yet intelligent lyrics. However, on the other hand, the skeptics will have a field day with Menos El Oso; it's a major change in the band's sound, replacing upbeat, almost spastic guitar work for a more refined, smoother, and a tad more boring sound. It seems to me like this will end up being an album people will either like or hate; I would put myself on the like side of the fence, for it's a nice -- if anything -- slightly flawed effort, but far from the band's best work.
Menos El Oso is a very relaxed album. The eleven tracks found on here glide by in no time, sometimes without the listener even noticing. I can't begin to put my finger on how many times my mind drifted off during the length of the CD, only to crash back into reality one song further into its duration. The songs found on Menos El Oso simply do not command your undivided attention, a quality which made older Minus The Bear material so special. That's not to say these songs are bad -- in fact, some of them are very good -- but there's no sense of urgency to be found. Bouncy, dancey tracks like "Spritz!!! Spritz!!!" and "Fine + 2 Pts." are nowhere to be found (save the chorus of what will soon to become a fan favorite, "Pachuca Sunrise"), and have been replaced by spaced-out, dreamy jams like "Memphis And 53rd" and "This Ain't A Surfing Movie," the latter being one of the best songs here, and the former being, for lack of a better adjective, a snoozer. Fortunately, there's still a lot of interesting guitar work and fun bass rhythms throughout the forty-minute length, especially on the album's highlight track and first single, "Hooray," a song which combines all of our favorite elements of Minus The Bear -- the fun, the rock, and the chill -- and rolls them up into one four-minute anthem. The more in-depth songs, like the spectacular "Digging" and "Fulfill The Dream," fare better than the rest, because they motivate you to listen to them, whereas songs like "El Torrente," which lingers for five minutes without going anywhere, and the awkward choice for an opener "The Game Needed Me," are simply too uninteresting to garner a multitude of further listens.
On the upside, the lyrics are still top-notch, as the band excels in painting pictures and telling stories with their words, as shown on "Pachuca Sunrise" and "The Fix." My favorite line, however, comes at the very end of the album on "This Ain't A Surfing Movie," where vocalist Jake Snider croons "I hope the weather holds, but you don't need the sun to make you shine," soon to be in AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace profiles everywhere. The band has a knack for coupling fantastic lines with great moments in their songs, and this is no different. It's surprising when a band's lyrics are written so well that they make you want to keep listening even moreso than the music, but it holds true for Menos El Oso.
It will be interesting to see how this album is perceived by the masses. Minus The Bear are a great band and possess a lot of talent, but I can't help but feel a little let down when I listen to Menos El Oso.
- "Pachuca Sunrise"
- "This Ain't A Surfing Movie"