For some fans of Minus the Bear, the group’s previous CD, “Omni,” was too much of a departure from the group’s earlier albums.
More keyboard and electronic oriented, “Omni” contrasted notably with the guitar-centered, angular rock that had characterized the first three albums by the New York-based band.
The musical shift didn’t happen by accident. Minus the Bear went into “Omni” feeling it was time to shake things up musically and try some new things. The group changed producers, going with Joe Chiccarelli for that project and wanted to put more emphasis on keyboards and electronics.
Now with its new CD, “Infinity Overhead,” Minus the Bear has returned to more of its familiar guitar-oriented sound. The group also reunited with Matt Bayles, who produced the first three albums and was also the original Minus the Bear keyboardist before leaving in 2006 to concentrate on producing records.
On the surface, this looks like a case of a band listening to its fans and deciding it should return to more of the sound that attracted people to the band in the first place.
The reality, according to singer/guitarist Jake Snider, is nothing is that calculated in Minus the Bear.
“I personally really liked ‘Omni’ myself,” Snider said. “I liked the direction. I think it sounds really cool. But when we do make new music, we never really think about a direction. And the only record that we really had a focused aesthetic for was ‘Planet of Ice.’ But in general, we just see what we come up with.”
Snider credits guitarist Dave Knudson and drummer Erin Tate with setting the more guitar-heavy, harder-hitting tone for “Infinity Overhead,” as the two took the lead in songwriting for the album.
“Pretty much I think it’s just where Dave and Erin took things when they were in the studio,” Snider said. “I think Dave wanted it to be more guitar oriented, more rock ’n’ roll.”
Indeed, “Infinity Overhead’s” guitar-centered sound is nothing new for Minus the Bear, but the band has rarely rocked as hard as it does on the new CD’s uptempo tracks.
The tone for the consistently strong album gets set with the opening track, “Steel and Blood,” with its sharp guitar lines and crashing beats bringing crunch to the song’s angular and appealing melody. Other songs, such as “Zeros,” “Cold Company” and “Lies And Eyes,” carry forward that edgy, yet tuneful, sound. The band, though, also includes some more expansive and quieter tunes (“Diamond Lightning,” “Empty Party Rooms” and “Heaven Is A Ghost Town”), which gives “Infinity Overhead” considerable range.
The new tour won’t skimp on older songs, though. Snider said the band will touch on material from throughout its catalog.
“We’re just trying to get a little deeper into the older material that we haven’t played in a long time, some of the favorites that we just kind of have in general between the five of us as well as a pretty hefty chunk of the new record,” Snider said. “I mean, this record I think we’re kind of leveraging more than we usually do for a new record live just because it works well. It works so well live.”
Alan Sculley is a freelance writer whose music articles have appeared in more than 100 publications in the United States and Canada.