Minus the Bear Planet of Ice

[Suicide Squeeze; 2007]

Styles:  emo
Others: Coheed and Cambria, The Appleseed Cast, Cursive, Sharks Keep Moving

Minus the Bear is shooting for the big time. As their publicity sheet tells me, their last album, Menos el Oso, sold over 118,000 copies, and the subsequent tour took in 75,000 tickets. When I visit their MySpace page, I learn that Planet of Ice will be on sale for only $9.99 at Target. Am I giving you the tired trope that Minus the Bear is selling out and their music has suffered for it? Well, not really. Planet of Ice is not measurably better or worse than Menos el Oso, and its presence in Hot Topic stores across the country is not going to do anything to change that.

In fact, I can’t denounce their decision to seek a more mainstream audience. With modern-rock vocals (I can even hear a little bit of Creed in frontman Jake Snider’s voice), repetitive song structures, competent if hackneyed instrumentation, and clichéd-to-death lyrics, Minus the Bear should be right at home on radio stations with names like “The Edge.” They write about topics that should be of interest to teenagers, most prominently sex and escape. Almost every song is about sexualized love and longing, and lyrics like “I need to feel your body moving on me” (“When We Escape”) and “A piece of you for a piece of me” (“Knights”) are nearly bad enough to make me wonder whether this is all some kind of joke. Running themes are straight out of the mediocre rock primer, including, besides the sexual stuff, vaguely anti-corporate sentiments and lots of talk about music itself. Taken together, it’s all very romantic, in the most excessive and hysterical sense of the word.

What makes all of this even worse is the length of the songs, which average almost five minutes apiece. The most egregious offender is Planet of Ice’s last song, “Lotus,” which clocks in at close to nine minutes, thanks to clumsy feedback inserted somewhat inappropriately between the beginning and end of what must have started out as a fairly straightforward rock song. That this interlude exists at all is interesting, as it hints at some urge toward experimentalism on an album that is really hurting for originality, but it’s too little, too late, too awkwardly executed, and, as a result, just confusing.

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