Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice

5 out of 5

Label: Suicide Squeeze

Produced by: Matt Bayles, Chris Common

Okay, look: this is not a perfect record. It’s still got some batshit dumb lyrics in which Jake Snider tries to be sexy by talking about naked babes, and the tracks that accompany this dumbness – White Mystery; Throwin’ Shapes – are the least interesting on the disc, leaning more toward the slick pop the group had perfected before and after this album. But: this is the best Minus the Bear album (by my opinion, of course, of course…), and would seem to make good on maturity, reaching back to the hard-edged bands from which all of our players gathered and merging it with the tricks they’d learned in playing to a less sweaty crowd. Early albums had Snider and crew cracking wise about a lazy, yachting, summertime lifestyle, and then that sort of turned into a real thing on Menos El Oso, but with some attempts at being adults at the same time. On Planet of Ice, the partying is mostly done – see those excepting tracks – with lyrics matching the cold imagery of the title and focusing more on the emptiness of that same life. It’s not super deep, of course – Snider didn’t grow exponentially in writing skills between now and then – but it was a step forward, and mapped to the album’s deeper, rocking sounds, fully melding the electronic with the pop with flourishes of dang proggy riffing, the disc made an impression.

It would only last until the next album, but still, when I go back and listen to Planet of Ice, I get that little thrill I had when first listening to the group, but without the nagging feeling (during Highly Refined Pirates era) that they were only a lark: MtB had emerged fully at the point of this disc into exciting territory they’d carved out all on their own. The disc opens with a mighty trio of perfect tracks – Burying Luck, Knights – backs it up with some brief psychedelic touches on Part 2, and manages some mini epics of noodling on Dr. L’Ling and When We Escape.