Return to 2007 #9 – Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice

danieltalsky | Albums,Best of the Year,Reviews | Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I'm returning to 2007 to see how my Best Albums of 2007 list has fared this year before tackling the best of 2008.

My review from the tinyblog:

The only person I know who was into Minus the Bear before this album doesn't like this album. She says it sounds like "something you'd hear on the END", basically generic alterna-rock. I listened to one of their older albums and it sounds just as much like it would fit in there.

In spite of that, I love this album and can't get enough of it. I have to admit, part of that is because it's so blandly listenable. The lyrics are poetic and evoke some sort of strange medieval journey. They've been compared to older prog rock like Rush or Yes, but I like how much less cheesy it is. There's some amazing guitar work, and the whole thing has a bit of an epic feel, but they don't do any 13 minute solos or anything. It just keeps moving and I feel a little twinge of regret when the journey is over and have to decide if I just want to play it again or not.

The vocalist, Jake Snyder, has a damn fine voice, and just keeps it easygoing and a little mysterious. I don't know what these songs are about exactly and he seems to like it that way.

They're local boys, and when this album was released, they did the record release party at the laserama here in Seattle with a little custom laser show. I remember thinking that was cool when it came out, but now that I'm into the album I'm kicking myself that I didn't get to see it. The Planet of Ice Laser Show would have been awesome.

My Sweet Snob Commentary, a year later:

Yes, this one is still a major comfort-food album, and to this day I still wish I could have seen the laser show.

I think I get the album a little more now.  I think I was unduly influenced by the mountainous album cover and first moments of the album.  When I originally reviewed it, I said I didn't really know what the album was about, and now I think I have a much better idea.  I thought the album was about some kind of quest on a planet of ice.  I don't think so anymore.

In the excellent HBO drama, Six Feet Under, there's a scene where one of the main characters has just begun dating after the death of his wife.  He befriends a hot yoga instructor who also has a young kid.  When he gets a little too needy on the independent single mother, she disdainfully puts him in his place.  He goes home and lays in his bed, and the camera pans out from his bed, showing it as it is in his mind: in an endless icy field, populated by no one.

This is the planet of ice Minus the Bear is singing about.  Most of the songs are frankly kind of chauvinistic, with some pretty old-fashioned ideas about male/female relationships.  There's a thread of masculine nobility throughout, but also a yearning for real human relationships that really fit, and not glorified romantic business relationships as in Dr. L'ling:

Don’t give me no hand-me-down love
It don’t wear the same
I want love that looks good on
With a fit that screams my name
Yeah, I was afraid

Of becoming a casual business man
On matters of the heart
Of becoming a casual business man
Or something even worse

I still love it's intricate, prog-inspired guitar work, and so now I understand why I liked the album's world-weary lyrical tone.  They're not going on a quest, they're just sick of what's been going on.

The lyrics I quoted are from Dr. L'ling:

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/05-dr-lling.mp3]

and the totally lovely Ice Monster:

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/02-ice-monster.mp3]
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