by Chris Chhoeun
About to embark on a 10 year anniversary tour, five-piece American rock group Minus the Bear is a band that, without mainstream success, are already veterans on the indie rock scene.
With the 2010 record Omni, they aimed to capture their live energy onto the album. Since losing keyboardist/producer Matt Bayles and signing to a new label, the band focused Omni to be a mix of the dancey vibes from Highly Refined Pirates (2002) with the darker, heart-heavy lyrics of Planet of Ice (2007).
A good friend turned me on to these guys with the song “Into the Mirror”, and I’ve been hooked on their catchy melodies all summer long.
The song begins with a series of full-band hits, followed by a a light guitar triples that give the listener a falling effect. After a few bars of only drums and keys, the entire band comes in softly with long, sustained chords as the keys continue with the dissonant evenly spaced eighths. The combination of the two is hauntingly beautiful.
What I love about this track is how those two clashing sounds, erie 1970s Keith Jarrett- like sounds on the keys dominating over carefully layered guitar backing, fit so well with each other.
For an entire forty clicks, they slowly set the scene for vocalist Jake Snider to come with the first verse.
“They got a mirror for the ‘caine in the bathroom because nobody here knows when to stop/ But for now we’re just making out with door unlocked..”
The verse introduces us to a relationship between a man, who deals cocaine, and a woman, who does sexual favors for this man in return for cocaine. This man has strong feelings for her, and does not know he is being used.
The discrepancy is that the woman is in relationship with a different man. Snider refers to them as the “late crowd”, those who continue partying and substance abuse beyond good limits.
Unison hits from the intro bring the band back together for the chorus.
“You get what you pay for/ we could cost a lot/ you get what you pay for/ but we do it for the taste of a good high/ we do it for the sake of a hot night.”
The story continues with the second verse and chorus.
The song takes a turn as two lone guitar harmonies bring us into a dream-like bridge section. Rachel Flotard, guest singing on the track, serenades us with her elegant melody.
“She senses the fear in him, with an irresistible kiss and a lie she hangs on his neck like a silver chain to her whim. Pull him into the mirror again.”
As the axe rhythms begin to quicken and take over, and the drums follow suit. The following part features a wah-driven guitar solo and an off beat double hat rhythmic drum pattern. It’s comes together in this very chaotic yet graceful balance, representative of the situation at hand.
After Flotard hits us again during the hullaballoo, and the track concludes by leading back to the main keys riff, and we feel like we’ve awoken from a dream, like we’ve come down from a good high.
The track “Animal Backwards,” is synth-heavy second part of the story. It chugs along with the same keys line, and the very powerful “Caught in the pull of your green eyed glow/ I want to feel my skin in the snow,” the snow being the cocaine that all three depend upon.
For best listening, I recommend bumping “Into the Mirror” loudly while driving alone at night. Like me, you’ll find yourself inadvertently belting out the chorus.