It really seems like it’s just me who feels like Minus the Bear’s [Twitter/Facebook] last outing was a misstep. I’m referring, of course, to 2009’s OMNI, on which the band’s sound, which they had been for eight years up until that point, took a more electronic turn. It took a while to fully click with me, but, if I’m being honest, so too has every other MtB album, including their latest. Do I think OMNI didn’t have as much impact as their previous output? I did at the time – I’d honestly need to revisit it – but Infinity Overhead doesn’t have that problem at all. Sure, it took a little while for things to fall into place, but, as previously stated, that’s been par for the course in my four-year relationship with the band.
I’m at the stage with this album that I can see it as being strong throughout, and this is much more the MtB that I like to hear. I thought their last album wasn’t as consistent as usual, but its successor doesn’t have an issue with flow, starting in impressive fashion with the jagged riffs of Steel and Blood, which finds the band moving further into math-rock territory, but the new material has a pop edge as well, as evinced by the final, triumphant chorus, ‘I’ll be there when you come to, come to me’, which is, melodically speaking, one of the most powerful moments on the album. Flagship single Lonely Gun features one of the best riffs on the record, too – even if there’s no shortage of great riffs.
This is the album on which the Seattle band have decided to go back to basics, but it’s not all as straightforward as that suggests. There are also moments where they decide to rein themselves in, as on the waltz-time ballad Heaven is a Ghost Town, and the effect that that restraint has is rather special. As influential as MtB have been, it’s always good for a band to try new things – say what you will about OMNI, but it was a refreshing listen in its own right – and even if this has been heralded as a return to their old sound, it’s far more than a mere pastiche. They sound revitalised (the ending of Empty Party Rooms pinballs between time-signatures, but sounds entirely focused), even when they slow things down for Diamond Lightning early on; putting a mid-tempo song like that as the third track on the album is a risky move for a band like MtB, but it works brilliantly, and then transitions right into Toska without missing a beat. Small changes can often make a big difference, and their fifth album serves to highlight this.
Infinity Overhead is out now via Big Scary Monsters.