By Al Kaufman
Minus the Bear have grown up. Gone are the frat boy-like titles such as “Hey, Wanna Throw Up?” And while their fourth release, Omni, contains some of the frenetic melodies that encompassed earlier CDs, it mostly contains listener-friendly grooves and jams. They’re memorable jams, but just a bit mellower, and a lot less sillier, than Minus the Bear fans may be used to.
Omni opens with a wild jungle beat that gives way to synth-driven goodness of “My Time.” It’s slick but slightly harsh, with simplistic, I’m-a-guy-and-I-want-sex lyrics. It’s what Minus the Bear does best. That energy peeks out throughout other songs as well, such as “Animal Backward.” Sometimes the energy even goes overboard, to the point of sounding like white trash rock, such as on “Summer Angel.”
But for the most part, the complex synth and guitar parts are held to a minimum. Producer Joe Chiccarelli, who has previously brought out the more accessible sides of My Morning Jacket, Manchester Orchestra and White Stripes, has added a definite sheen to the 10 tracks here. They sound like beautifully layered extended jams instead of the erratic, disjointed melodies that fans have come to expect. Minus has been working in this direction over the course of their last two CDs, but Omni is their coming out party.
David Knudson layers his guitars, and Erin Tate still lays down hard-beaten rhythms, but, for the most part, the band seems intent to layer on the melody and and swirl it around for a while. More often than not, the results work.