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Minus The Bear
They Make Beer Commercials Like This
Arena Rock Recordings

Bulletproof. Some bands are destined to reach that status--Radiohead, Wilco, etc. Destined to come out with material that people will be listening to 50 years from now. They've been able to attain such acclaim because they possess something that others can only dream about: Geniuses (i.e. Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, Jeff Tweedy, Jay Bennett).

The phrase often comes to mind whenever Minus the Bear comes up, if only because they seem to almost get there, but fall just short. It seems as if they lack that genius to drive their band, to get them into the pantheon.

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking: "That's no different from any other band on the planet who've written a decent piece of music." True, but not many bands come this damn close. You can hear the potential in there, but they just can't seem to get to that legendary Bulletproof status.

That said, They Make Beer Commercials Like This is still a worthy EP. If I had to pigeon-hole them, this effort is definitely along the blurry post-punk lines that have resurfaced lately, sounding at times like they could possibly have come out of the early '80's. But I wouldn't bank on that, and like I said, it's only at certain points.

The first track "Fine +2pts" is probably the best effort of the six songs, combining guitarist Dave Knudson's tapping style that he's become known for, with bassist Cory Murchy's rhythm's, to produce a sound that really doesn't bring any other band to mind. The other noteworthy song is the third track, "Dog Park". With probably the best chorus, musically, on the short player, Murchy and Knudson again play well off each other to once again produce their uncanny tapping/thumping sound.

As in the past, they've come up with some outlandish song titles: "I'm Totally Not Down With Rob's Alien," and "Hey! Is That a Ninja Up There?" Clever names, but nothing close to their previous efforts "Thanks For the Killer Game of Crisco Twister," and "MONKEY!!!KNIFE!!!FIGHT!!!," which is probably what Homer Simpson would've called his song had he written a top 40 hit. Some people call these monikers gratuitous, unnecessary. I call it original.

One of the reasons the band seems to walk along the edge of greatness, is because of that originality, but it's also because they always seem to have a moment or moments that makes an impression... something that I'll end up mulling over weeks or even months later. This time was no different.

The chorus on "Let's Play Clowns" was that moment.

Singer Jake Snider bellows: "It's rare to feel this expensive/next to a girl like her." It's significant because it's typical of all of Snider's poetic efforts. He always seems to get his point across with simple, haunting lyrics that are almost a backdrop to the music. This is important because no one part of the band overrides the other, the meld well together as a unit.

While this latest EP doesn't live up to 2002's Highly Refined Pirates (which is one of my favorite releases of the past few years,) it will certainly hold fans over until their next full length release, and give newcomers a chance to taste MTB's unique style.

-Jason Dunbar

1. Fine +2pts
2. Let's Play Clowns
3. Dog Park
4. I'm Totally Not Down With Rob's Alien
5. Hey! Is That a Ninja Up There?
6. Pony Up!

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