By Al Kaufman
When guitarist Ned Bridges decided to form a band with fellow Connecticut friends Zach Guglin (vocals/drums) and Michael Martens (guitar), he probably thought the band would just break up when he took off for college. Instead, the two remaining members recruited guitarist Mark Pinkert and bassist Trevor Raffauf before moving out to L.A. and adding female singer (and sometimes actress) Marissa DuBois. The band was all together; except for one. The name was obvious.
Okay, so they have a clever, or maybe just sort of cute, name. What about the music? That’s not as easy to explain as the name. Here’s a close approximation. Imagine you’re in college, and you just took your, your girlfriend’s, and the stoner down the hall’s CD collections and threw them in a blender. Voila, you have Minus Ned.
Are We Finally Fitting In? grabs the listener with the opening, “New Orleans.” Like the city, the song is all funk and attitude; with a nice, fat upright bass, courtesy of Brian Allen. It is easily the greatest thing on the album.
But there are plenty of nice touches throughout. There are the smokey blues guitar licks on “Wayside,” or the riot grrl-lite, pop-rock sound that DuBois brings to “Gotta Get Out.” “I I I” is more good angry girl pop. “Something Better,” with its gentle, shimmering guitars and “shoo-be-doos,” is just that. And “Come On” is strictly an excuse for an old-fashioned jam band guitar workout.
The rest of the CD offers some nice harmonies by DuBois and Guglin, but gets a bit bogged down in adult contemporary mode. Songs such as “Afraid” or “Heartache Is Through” are the kind of technically efficient but soulless songs that bands like Toto and the Eagles did in their sleep. Minus Ned is better than that, and they prove it for about half of this CD.