In the three year span between Minus the Bear’s debut full-length Highly Refined Pirates and their sophomore release Menos el Oso, the band’s sound became self aware.
No longer enslaved to the pressures or barriers of organic instrumentation, EL OSO was freed from its biotic half-shell into the data fields of the digital realm, never to return again.
But in all actuality, the band made a conscious decision to abandon analog means in favor of spacey, heavily modified electronic music through the means of pedals and… I don’t know, digitizing.
I don’t know if that made sense, but it felt right.
The best comparison I have for how Highly Refined Pirates stands up to later MtB material is this: Something About Airplanes– and Photo Album-era Death Cab for Cutie versus today’s Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys. It’s that stark of a contrast, that large of a step away.
Yes, it’s still the same band, and most, if not all of the same members. But where HRP has recognizable guitars and what seems to me to be an actual kick drum, Menos el Oso-onward is just space rock.
It’s disappointing in a way, because so much of HRP is enjoyable, even down to its wordy and sardonic song titles. From the delightfully mellow “Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo” to the upbeat “I Lost All My Money at the Cock Fights,” the final 60 seconds of which are the best minute of this whole album.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of the far out eccentricities for which MtB fans have come to known for the last three albums or so. “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” and “Andy Wolff” are trippy in their own right.
The two varying, divisive styles best come together on the album’s high point, “Spritz!!! Spritz!!!”, which completes the rare exclamation point sextuplet, a tremendous feat in this digital age.
I don’t know, man. I guess I would have kept listening to this band if they hadn’t gone so far off the deep end on their later works. This album and the EP that followed, They Make Beer Commercials Like This, are some of my fondest memories of the group. Just hasn’t been the same since.
From 2002’s Highly Refined Pirates, this is “Spritz!!! Spritz!!!” –
Standout tracks: “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister,” “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” and “I Lost All My Money at the Cock Fights”
Weakest track: The interludes “Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked”, “Damn Bugs Whacked Him, Johnny”, “Booyah Achieved”, and even the 70-second long “You Kill Bugs Good, Man” are just ambient fillers. More aesthetic detail than they anything else.
RIYL: Electro, pop-electro, light-hearted prog? Sure. Coheed & Cambria if they played indie electronic pop.