Monday, 2 March 2015

Minus The Bear – This is What I Know About Being Gigantic (2001)

It was about 2003 when I first heard Seattle's own Minus the Bear. Around that time I was discovering all kinds of new and amazing music, finding bands that would rank among my favourites for many years. Minus The Bear was one such band. Now, unbelievably, ten years have passed since they started releasing music and as such, they are celebrating by re-releasing their first EP and LP in vinyl formats, This is What I Know About Being Gigantic and Highly Refined Pirates respectively. As I own both already, it's hard to justify buying them again, but I should take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the albums and encourage you to check them out. And don't forget that Minus The Bear decided to make all or most of the songs and albums in their early catalogue have long, comedic and completely unrelated titles. After a few albums they all but abandoned it, likely due to fans being unable to remember which songs belong to which title. I was one of them, though I liked the practice to be honest. I kind of miss it, but do understand why they progressed beyond it.

This is What I Know About Being Gigantic was their debut release that came out November 2001 and knowing where they are now, it makes it all that much more a curious release in their catalogue. At times the songs are what one would expect from Minus the Bear, but several of the tracks take a much more heavy electronic approach than they would ever touch on again. Not to say that it's unwelcome, in fact, this is one of their most solid and cohesive releases. Many of the tracks link together, some of them being basically introductions to other ones, though each of the 7 tracks is vital to the whole product.

It opens with “Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked” which introduced us to what would be a unique trademark sound of the band, the double tapping guitar playing method which gives a quick, unwavering beep sound of sorts that I really haven't heard from any other band, at least not the same way. Apart from the distinct vocal style, that guitar sound would become one of the best ways to spot Minus the Bear from the crowd of west coast indie rock bands. That and their out-of-formula song writing, which is present in this track, which goes through a lot of movements in its less than four minute long run time.

Next is “Lemurs, Man, Lemurs” which is a higher energy song that starts off good and about half way through, it gets even better. It starts to pick up in tempo and energy and becomes a shameless party song by the finale. It leads directly into an untitled transitional instrumental track that has a quirky science fiction feel to it. It's one of the most heavy electronic tracks in the mix and also transitions really well into another electronic-esque rock track simply called “Intro” as it is the introduction to the following song. It is brief and I don't know if it needed to be its own song, but it is. It's got a lot of quirky synthesized noodling that works best when listening to it with headphones.

Then enters “Just Kickin' It Like A Wild Donkey” which is another solid rock vocal track. Though, I find that with a lot of the songs on here, like this one, the strongest parts of the songs are where they let it wander and go into some instrumental portions. The vocal rock sections make for a good central focal point in which the song can get back on track. It also leads directly into the next instrumental track, “Potato Juice & Liquid Bread” which... sounds kind of disgusting. That being said, the actual music is quite nice. It sounds like a well polished jam session at times mixed with more of that science fiction electronica sound. This track is much longer though and fine by me.

The album wisely finishes with “Pantsuit, Uggghhh” which starts off a little weak, primarily just being a slow paced song about parties and girls again. Though, as the song picks up, it becomes one of the strongest tracks on the album. The guitar and the synthesizers play off each other, and the singer, despite not having an obvious gift for vocals, has the right personality and character for the music.

This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic does what a debut EP should: give the listener just enough to want more. It has the right about of surprises, while not being misleading about what kind of band Minus The Bear would shape up to be. There are a lot of elements that wouldn't really work into their future stuff, but there is more than enough that is a very clear representation of what their forthcoming full LP would be like. This is a great release and it is no wonder why Minus The Bear made the splash that they have in Seattle's music scene. They really are a cut above the average rock band.

5 Stars

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