They Make Beer (CD)
“Pop” is a tag that’s been assigned to Minus The Bear throughout their career. It’s been used to set a distinction between the unique brand of complex indie rock they introduced on their first EP and the more angular and aggravated sounds of their previous bands Botch, Kill Sadie, and Sharks Keep Moving. It’s also a tag that was thrown around frequently in the wake of their streamlined fourth album, OMNI. And it’s a descriptor that immediately comes to mind within the first few seconds of their classic second formal EP, They Make Beer Commercials Like This. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary and first time in print since 2011, Beer Commercials is the evolutionary step between Minus The Bear’s first two landmark albums, Highly Refined Pirates and Menos El Oso. Opening track “Fine + 2 Points” remains one of the band’s strongest opening tracks in their discography, charging out of the gates with a syncopated stomp that comes across as a more agitated take on Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Outta My Head”. If Minus The Bear were looking to make pop music without any of its major-scale bubblegum trappings, they nailed it here. The band follows it with “Let’s Play Clowns” and “Dog Park”—nods to Highly Refined Pirates’ formula of frenetic clean guitar work, bombastic choruses, and Jake Snider’s lyrics of detached romantic nostalgia. These tracks may represent Minus The Bear’s original trademark version of pop, but on songs like “I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s Alien” the band eschews it’s restless energy for atmosphere and dynamics, creating a sound that’s inspired more than a handful of contemporary melodic post-rock bands. By the time the band belts out “Pony Up!” the listener has watched the three-year sonic transition between Minus The Bear’s first two full-lengths transpire within under half-an-hour, with the their earlier math rock predilections yielding to the tightly wound club-banging pedalboard trickery that defined their sophomore album. Even if Beer Commercials doesn’t fit within your definition of pop music, the unorthodox energetic charm of this relatively low-profile release serves as an exciting reminder of why Minus The Bear became one of the most important and influential indie rock bands of the new century.