A band of opposites, Seattle’s Minus the Bear operate in the precarious position of trying to balance the more intense elements of grunge, with the melodic, shiny, elements of 80s, British, pop-rock.
From the grunge world we hear a yearning, emotive, style of singing, introspective lyrics about bitterness and loneliness, and powerful post rock psychedelic droning guitars. From British pop we can hear the 80’s playing style of the Who, and the electronic and rhythmic elements of Genesis. What we get is is a mixture of sounds, instruments, themes and cultures that has no right to work when all combined together; but somehow does.
16 years, and 6 albums, into their career the Bear attack their performance with a trademark musical style which attempts to force the audience to pay attention. Stylistically, their music spans an interesting battle between intensity and pop, traditional rock music and electronica, straightforward rhythms and jazz patterns. It’s these ongoing battles that provide the most stimulus over the show, meaning that just when you think you’ve captured the sound and structure of a song, the band change it’s focus. It’s a quite brilliant, and very original, approach to musical composition and live performance, seen particularly on standout tracks ‘Last Kiss’ and ‘Cold company’.
Adding further sensory stimulus, frontman Jake Snider carry’s on the theme of opposites; his voice managing to simultaneously howl like (Chris) Cornell yet sing like (Phil) Collins; and his intensity dropping for between-song jokes.
Unfortunately, the only opposite we are not given tonight is an encore, meaning that the show ends fairly abruptly with the audience spending at least five minutes unsure if the band will return or not. Perhaps with the show focused on keeping the audience guessing, this may well be the most appropriate end to the evening after all. Challenging and enjoyable.