Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Minus (Ur)sine

With Irregular Folks and the Cowley Road Carnival in diary this weekend, festival season has begin: Cider, walk with me.

MINUS THE BEAR/JOAN OF ARC, Future Perfect, Bully, 9/16/17

Bright math twiddling.  Thick bubbling synths that could be slowly achieving consciousness in Herbert West’s laboratory.  Insectile lops and insistent drum tattoos.  Periods of drone stasis and sonic wave therapy.  Some floppy old second tier Britpop glam.  Oh, and it was all going so well.  Joan Of Arc set up some wonderfully eclectic and enticing music – think Parts & Labor with a smidgen of Bardo Pond and a dash of Tomaga’s dub-inflected churn, for starters – and then, intermittently, some clumsy sub-Molko vocals parachute in and ruin it all.  There’s even some frankly worrying vicar in a youth club gyrating.  It’s as if the band felt they needed some vocals to make the music acceptable, no matter how unsuitable.  If so, the singing adds legitimacy whilst being actively unpleasant.  A bit like the DUP, perhaps.  Still, there’s more than enough great stuff to enjoy here, and Joan Of Arc repay attention with a varied sound that could be four different bands battling for supremacy over 30 minutes; let’s hope the three good ones attain ultimate victory.

Minus The Bear might come from Seattle, but they could have been bred in a petri dish to please Oxford musicians.  They have a post-rock veneer, with some jerky guitars, staccato keyboards and vast punnetfuls of pedals, but beneath it they make big, old-fashioned yearning rock music, all impassioned choruses and reverby star-seeking solos.  There are times when their slick wide-angle rock resembles the articulate, post-Radiohead bounce of Maximo Park, and there are times when their brief tics and stutters fail to hide unashamed stadium bombast, like Zooropa era U2.  At the final whistle, what looked to be a close fight at first becomes a walkover, glitchtronica references floored by guitar solos on the crash barrier, enveloping textures thrown aside negligently by tastefully epic vocal angst.  Like our own Kanadia magnified, Minus The Bear are very good, but we wish they’d just give up the half-arsed post-rock pretence, buy some proper smoke machines and a big fuck-off fan and kick Brian May off the roof to take become the unfettered, billowy-bloused rockers they are deep inside. 

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