Minus the Bear Concert Recap for The Charleston Post & Courier

Minus The Bear Triumphs Over Tech Issues

Seattle’s Minus the Bear plays their instruments as well as any band in rock. From a skill and technique standpoint, it would be hard to find a better modern rock outfit. But it seemed for a while during Sunday’s show at the Music Farm that the instruments didn’t want to be rocked. Thankfully, the band weathered through the technical difficulties and played a set that had the crowd at a deafening roar.

The night was kicked off by The Constellations and the group’s brand of energetic, southern-fried dance rock driven by a huge fuzzy bass sound and spatters of bongo beats. The second opening act was Skysaw, a band that was much tighter than The Constellations but not nearly as much fun. While the band featured ex-Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin on the skins, the real star of the band was guitarist Anthony Pirog, whose guitar sound and style brought to mind Explosions in the Sky (only Skysaw has a singer). While both bands were solid, neither seemed to really connect with the audience and garner more than a smattering of applause.

In contrast, the crowd was all-in with their support for Minus the Bear the minute the band took the stage. The band launched into the set with precision on “Knights” and the old fan favorite “Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco Twister.” The crowed even gave a roaring round of applause for the recently released b-side “Broken China.” Continue reading

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All Eternals Deck – The Mountain Goats

In an era of critically acclaimed literary lyricists, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats may be the most lauded. But he’s also one of the hardest to crack, as the deep metaphors he crafts often leave the listener rummaging for meaning. This style continues on his band’s latest effort All Eternals Deck. The album launches with “Damn These Vampires” with its epic cursing of immortality and only gets denser from there.

While many longtime The Mountain Goats fans bemoan Darnielle’s expansion of his music into a full band from its solo roots, the fuller sound makes for richer storytelling backdrops. On a track like “Sourdoire Valley Song” something as simple as the sparse drum line gives the song added emotional delicacy. The band also helps on “Estate Sale Sign” where the bass and drums help Darnielle’s hard acoustic strums fully rock out.

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Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – Explosions in the Sky

Explosions in the Sky built a post-rock (read: instrumental rock) reputation on soaring highs and skillfully employing the soft-loud dynamic. But the Austin quartet’s newest album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, is starkly calm, failing to hit the same emotional chords that thrust the band to prominence.

Take Care is best described as even-keel. The guitar wails that come in during the opener, “Last Known Surroundings,” drone on rather than building up the excitement. “Human Qualities” stays stagnant for five minutes before finally adding a playful guitar line for color. “Be Comfortable, Creature” attempts to break the boredom with an impressive array of layers: tender strings to start, a walking bass riff to build on in the middle, and the peeling of church bells and smooth sax (or at least a some guitar effect to inmate those sounds) to wrap up the number. Still, the feeling it evokes is more one of appreciation than enthrallment.

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Oui Camera Oui – The Heavenly States

Growing up is never an easy prospect for rockers, but Oakland’s the Heavenly States handle the passage of time with understated grace and rock vet chops on their latest release, Oui Camera Oui. The follow-up to the stunning Delayer (the best album of 2008), this EP attempts to make sense of the frustrations of the world, both political and personal, through a series of sonic snapshots.

The triumphant “Berlin Wall” bemoans, “When we get well they sell another magic spell,” but the track’s underlying hope is reflected in the way it builds layer upon layer (with Spoon’s Britt Daniel singing backup vocals), growing ever larger until it bursts at the seams with anthemic bravado. Other songs like “Model Son” lament the exploitation of people in the American war machine, underscored with soft repeating coos of “woe, woe, woe.”

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