Bear naked 

Minus the Bear steps out from behind its jokey facade

Ursa minus: Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating around in space.
  • Ursa minus: Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating around in space.

Minus the Bear's Erin Tate is tired of talking about the group's reputation for bringing humor to its music.

Back on the group's early albums the 2002 full-length CD Highly Refined Pirates and the EPs Bands Like it When You Yell 'Yar' at Them and They Make Beer Commercials Like This the subject was unavoidable. That's what happens when you've got song titles like "Just Kickin' It Like A Wild Donkey" and "Hey, Wanna Throw Up?"

But those times had-been-a-changing almost as soon as the laughter started dying down.

"We were [seen as] this kind of jokey band, and we've never really been that way," says the drummer. "We've always taken our music very seriously and taken things very seriously. But it's not the way things were coming across because of [the song titles], which is admittedly our own fault. But we just wanted to take a turn toward, 'Hey, listen to our music, as opposed to talking about our song titles.'"

In reality, there were reasons to notice the music even on the early albums. And anyone who has heard the Seattle-based group's 2005 release, Menos el Oso, or 2007's Planet of Ice will know that while there's nothing overly funny about the song titles or the music, there is an awful lot that's interesting and entertaining.

Planet of Ice is the strongest effort yet by the group, which includes Tate, singer Jake Snider, guitarist David Knudson, bassist Cory Murchy and keyboardist Alex Rose.

For lack of a better word, Minus the Bear plays pop-rock, but not the sugar-sweet variety. The songs certainly have hooks, but the melodies to Planet of Ice songs such as "Knights," "Burying Luck" and "Dr. L'Ling" are angular and built around intertwining guitar and keyboard lines, rather than riffs.

Though difficult to describe, Minus the Bear songs are immediately enticing and smartly constructed. And Planet of Ice shows the band continuing to develop and focus its efforts.

"I just feel like every year that goes on, we get more and more used to playing with each other and we get more and more used to what we want out of our music as a band, collectively," Tate says.

And in a very literal sense, Planet of Ice is more of a group creation than other Minus the Bear albums, on which Tate and Knudson had been the primary songwriters.

"This record was a lot more of a collaborative thing between the five of us, where everyone was around and everyone contributed way more ideas," says Tate. "I personally feel the record is 100 times better for that reason. It's way more cohesive and way more put together because of that."



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