By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
Reading the words "rare" and "spectacular" in a review of your latest album on the Web's most influential music commentary site: good.
Seeing the word "clusterfuck" following those two words: not quite as good.
That's straight from Pitchfork's review of Minus the Bear's fourth LP, this month's Omni. It ranked a 3.5 out of 10, a sharp drop from the respectable 7.2 they notched for their previous full-length, Planet of Ice. Some bands would be bummed, but the Seattle-based prog/ambient/pop band took it in relative stride. After all, it could be worse: This is the same website that once reviewed a Jet album by simply posting a video of a monkey drinking its own pee.
"I don't think it really matters. We're not making music for critics. We're making it for ourselves and for fans," says keyboard player Alex Rose a few hours before a show in Boston. "You can only try to just be entertained by it. I'm never bummed out by anyone's opinion."
Omni is indeed a different record for the band in a number of ways. In an attempt to capture the feel of a live show — a common goal for bands in a studio — the band played each song together, rather than mixing elements recorded individually. It's all a little less atmospheric and a little more straightforward.
"There's actually something kind of funny that Joe Chicarelli said when we were recording," Rose says of the Grammy-winning producer at the helm of Omni. "If Pitchfork trashes it, then you can count on sales. The lower the Pitchfork review, that means I'm stoked, because the album's gonna sell really well."
They also incorporated a number of different sonic influences, including R&B — traces of which you can pick up on tracks like lead single "My Time," boasting a surprisingly soulful chorus from lead singer/guitarist Jake Snider.
"It's very much a record of five different guys, and if you look at your iPods, you'll find very different music collections. We definitely let those influences shine," says Rose, chalking up a good deal of the band's musical evolution to working with Chicarelli. "He definitely kicked our asses. It was good. We weren't afraid to try any idea that [came] up."
The band's okay with having just as many detractors as supporters.
"I think the record's polarizing, and I'm kind of stoked about that," says Rose, with Minus the Bear since 2006.
And not just among critics. Fan reaction, according to Rose, also has been split so far, which he says is essentially by design.
"If you're not making people scratch their heads a little bit, I'm not sure if you're pushing far enough," he says.
Omni also marks the band's first record with Dangerbird, a notably hip label based in the notably hip Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and sporting Bad Veins, The Dears, and Sea Wolf on its roster. The record was completed on Minus the Bear's own time, and then picked up after completion.
"We kind of just made it and shopped around, they were excited," Rose says. "I think it's awesome that they have a visible presence in Silver Lake. Not many labels have that."
Minus the Bear will remain busy for the rest of the month, capping their spring tour pushing Omni with a festival date at Sasquatch, in their home state of Washington. Following that is a spot at Lollapalooza, in August in Chicago. They're playing the same day as Soundgarden, something Rose says the band is "super-excited" about — and probably not just because they can bond with Chris Cornell over the 1.7 Pitchfork gave Audioslave's first album.