Minus the Bear - London Carling Academy Islington - 6/12/06
15 Dec 2006
"they've captured the middle ground between really creative and artful music for the outsider while still making big tunes..."
Islington Academy is, as is well renowned, a bit of an odd one. Nobody can work out whether they like it or not. Yes, big space, and lower ceiling for crowd space which is a good thing, but it is in a shopping centre, and this confuses me. It's where gigs and shopping meet on the other side. I'll buy some slippers - now I'll go and see a gig. Strange. Location aside, what's important about this venue is that it wasn't supposed to be here. The show's bump up from the Underworld to Islington Academy tells us that Seattle band Minus the Bear's dedicated following is no longer a small cherished few, but a blossoming many, here for a band noticeably on the up.
The Cult of Minus the Bear is mostly made up of the kids who like it heavy, loud and intricate, and don't want to compromise. The standard post-hardcore Don Caballero / Battles style noodling and technical brilliance boxes are checked, but this is also very melodic, emotional indie-rock that swoons and washes over you, leaving you crying. Crying hard. Set closer 'Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse' (the band is famed for having perhaps the best song titles in the business) saw one couple near the front kissing their faces off.
See, this ain't your normal technical guitar freak-out. On top of all of this, the chicks seemingly really dig this shit, as evidenced by nearly half the crowd being female. They're pretty, look unprentiously cool and clearly like good music. We swoon. It's a bonus not only visually; it makes for a good atmosphere, don't you think? It's a welcome change from the male dominated guitar shows and the associated vibe that some of us know perhaps all too well.
Quite importantly, there aren't many like Minus the Bear. It only calls to mind bands like American Football or other forgotten US indie-rock heroes. The synths and electronics used give off a Californian-rock messed up by Four-Tet sound, which, to some, is as cool as you could ever hope to be.
It's pop for the anti-pop consortium. There are enough big choruses and winning melodies here to drown Burt Baccurach, but I'm guessing he might not be a fan. Minus the Bear have done what so many have tried and failed; they've captured the middle ground between really creative and artful music for the outsider while still making big tunes. Give them a medal, or at least your time.