5 out of 5
Label: Arena Rock
Produced by: Matt Bayles
Having been lured into the first Minus the Bear EP by a “featuring members of…” sticker, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the nigh-pop of it all, since those named bands were all hardcore types. And when their first full-length dropped, while I was more prepared – and pleased by how they’d tightened things up into some badass hooks – I was then thrown by how cheeseball some of the lyrics were.
This step forward / step back feeling would occur for me with every MTB release; I’m not sure I ever really came to terms with whatever I thought the band should / could be. But somewhere very close to that undefined state is their post-Pirates, pre-Menos el Oso EP, They Make Beer Commercials Like This, which is mostly a carbon copy of Pirates’ greatest hits in terms of the sound – a combo of the clean riffing / finger-tapping emo stuff, spoke-sung flat vocals, and breakout punky moments – but with the schmaltz turned down, and the rock turned up.
However, on the sliding scale of MTB (which is how I’m rating this), it is an all-killer no-filler release, ditching the time-wasting – sorry – electronic interstitials and slow ballads for all hooks. And the bits that aren’t carbon copies are steps forward: either bringing in some of Menos’ more evolved and layered songwriting (“I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s Alien”) or, with closer “Pony Up!” delivering one of the band’s greatest tracks – something epic and challenging that’s actually suggestive of some of those math bands from whence the members came.