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Minus The Bear - King Tuts, Glasgow - 27th April 2013 (Live Review)

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 Written by Jonny Rimmer

For a band of Minus the Bear’s reputation, I must admit I was slightly surprised that wee, beloved King Tuts was the venue of choice for tonight’s show in Glasgow. This is a band that managed to bring math rock into the mainstream over the Atlantic long before Foals did so here. With that said, the band we see today are not the same quirky quintet of a decade ago, operating on a much smoother and pop-orientated terrain with their latest release.

Local support Skies Fell are clearly more indebted to the band of yesteryear, with funky guitar interplay and tapping a feature of their sound. They also boast a more passionate edge, with emo-inflected vocals more reminiscent of This Town Needs Guns and the like – that comparison is particularly striking on one extended track where the band go for broke on the sentimental crescendo. The quartet have a natural and accessible sound, with piano padding it out nicely, and my only real criticism is the odd key changes and structural tinkering the band occasionally pull out. 

The Americans, strikingly by comparison, don’t feel anywhere near as zealous or exciting. That’s not to say their set is bad – far from it, the band perform very well and appear upbeat due to guitarist David Knudson’s birthday. What is obvious, however, is the pedestrian nature of songs from their two most recent records, 'Omni' and 'Infinity Overhead'. Whilst they certainly experiment with synths to a greater degree, the songwriting itself is less playful and much less structurally ambitious. 

And structure is a key thing to note; Minus the Bear’s strengths don’t necessarily lie in obscure time signatures or manic chord changes because most of their tracks are pretty locked in a 4/4 groove. Their older material stand out proudly on this setlist, boasting minor eccentricities that make the songs memorable. ‘Absinthe Party...’ gets a particular roar of approval, famous for its simple syncopated riff, changes in rhythm and massive chorus.

For all that, Minus the Bear certainly showcase a sound that is uniquely their own. It’s the small things: the interaction between the different guitar tones, how they play at such a fast tempo but still sound so restrained and the way they use staccato to actually construct songs that are laid-back. Closing track ‘Pachuca Sunrise’ is iconic and memorable for all these reasons, and it’s still a highlight despite the schizophrenic lights show. They may be getting on a bit (Mr Knudson just hit 37), but hopefully the Seattle based band haven’t settled into middle age permanently.

Minus The Bear continue their UK tour tonight in Portsmouth.

Minus The Bear UK Tour Dates are as follows

Wed May 1st 2013 - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Thu May 2nd 2013 - The Garage, London

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