Forty-six days is how long Seattles Minus The Bear will be on the road this fall (if you include days off). It’s a circle of dates that starts and ends in its home state of Washington but begs the question, why all the effort to tour again around an album that came out over a year ago? The string of new dates that started on the 8th are in support of the band’s latest EP, simply titled Acoustics, which was released that same week. While not entirely centered on the six tracks, the tour will be a way to show fans a different side of the band, as well as debut a new song.
That very track, entitled Guns & Ammo, is how the latest EP begins. It is another case of the Minus the Bear ironic blues as Jake Snider sings of a not letting someone get too close and its possible xenophobic consequences. While the band’s musicianship is growing some, lyrically the song carries their distinctive flair for blunt story telling. It also follows the tradition of their last effort, Planet of Ice, by stepping up their guitar parts to be larger and more filling. The rest of the tracks are centered on the band’s last record with only the second song pulling from their first record, Highly Refined Pirates. We Are Not A Football Team seems like an obvious choice for an acoustic EP, given its already soft nature. What you get in turn is an even more basic version with interesting translations that work well for the song. These improvised traits, be it an extra guitar or keys, carries through each of the songs to help fill spots where keyboards or effect pedals took over originally.
Burying Luck wisely replaces the slide guitar and synth moments with a piano that does not strip the song back, but gives it a new voice, letting Snider keep his original tone. Often when scaling a rock song down, the vocal melody has to be altered to compensate, but not in this case as the original songs pace is kept and thus vocals are too. The new take on Knights, off the same 2007 record, ends up acquiring a much more radio-friendly quality, but to make up for it, they hit with the guitar harmonies they do so well, especially on this track. Pachuca Surprise, off 2005s Menos el Oso, is the only song from that album, and is the only one to come across as characteristically different than the original. By stripping away the micro-slide guitar moments and focusing on the main chord changes, the song loses its formulated edge and ends up sounding very un-Bear like.
Throwin Shapes is toned, and slowed, down making it more soulful, and a solid lead in for the EPs closer, Ice Monster. This song is the predictably stripped down version of itself as the original is just as ordinary. Its always fun to see bands rebuild their well known songs in new ways, and this is no exception. The EP feels like more of a collectors piece, however, as nothing is groundbreaking, or, with that one exception, new. It does give the guys a good excuse though to change things up live, which was probably the thinking behind the record anyways.
“Guns & Ammo”