Minus the Bear: Highly Refined Pirates (Suicide Squeeze)

Part jam band, part modern rock, part experimental, and all pleasing.

The best things in life are those that arrive unexpectedly; this album from Minus the Bear is no exception. Part jam band, part modern rock, part experimental, and all pleasing, Minus the Bear began as a side project when five members of popular Seattle bands wanted to try something new. Two years later, it’s still going strong, and growing stronger.

Really, the only negative thing I can say about Highly Refined Pirates is that the songs have stupid, nonsensical titles. Case in point: the disc’s first track, a simple tale of girls and drinking and yacht racing that somehow comes off sounding oh, so deep in Jake Snider’s dreamy voice, is entitled “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco® Twister.”

“‘It’s getting late,’ she said./She touched my face./‘Let’s stay out as late as we can,’” Snider sings on “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” Through-out the disc, the songs are mostly about girls, lakes, love, drinking, and drugs, but they’re well-written and even better performed. Behind the vocals rage a cacophony of keyboards and the usual accoutrements: guitar, bass, and drums. With their stuttering beats and creative musical forays, Minus the Bear are utterly captivating. Highly Refined Pirates includes five instrumentals, allowing the band’s non-frontmen—Erin Tate, David Knudsen, Matt Bayles, and Cory Murchy—to fully shine.

The whole mixture comes together, though, with Snider’s mundane yet clever lyrics. Though it’s hard to pick a favorite from this wonderful collection, “Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo” has got to rank high, with its peppy beat and this amazing line: “You said, ‘My life’s like a bad movie,’/I said, ‘That’s true of all of us.’//You said, ‘I’ve got to wake up so fucking early,’/I said, ‘Maybe the director’s turned on us.’”

“Spritz!!! Spritz!!! Spritz!!!” and “Women We Haven’t Met Yet” are swirling toe-tappers. Another gem, “We Are not a Football Team,” is a delicate love poem, Snider’s low-key voice over soft keyboards and percussion:

She was sitting on a swing
and dangling her feet
like the leaves of a tree,
I think I heard her singing.
We’re still out at 10 in the evening.
I knew her in the way that
I knew not to speak.
Quietly took a seat
and thought I’d stay for a week.

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