It’s fitting that Minus the Bear’s new EP is called They Make Beer Commercials Like This, as the Seattle band is known for referencing drinking in almost all of their songs. “I Lost All My Money At the Cock Fights” had a whole verse about skinny dipping drunk, while “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” contained lyrics about drinking wine and absinthe in Europe. And then there was “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister,” which revolved around a story involving girls drinking on yachts. Frontman Jake Snider has argued that the band’s songs are not actually about drinking. And he’s right. But damned if they don’t find ways to spike their songs with drunken anecdotes.
It’s ironic, however, that there’s no mention of alcohol on Beer Commercials. Songs like “Fine + 2 Points” and “Dog Park” do, however, return to another theme often found in Minus the Bear’s lyrics — girls. With all of the talk of drinking and girls, one wonders why Minus the Bear’s music hasn’t made its way into a beer commercial yet.
If you know Minus the Bear, you know why. Silly as it sounds, it’s a little too smart to sell pilsners. Guitarist Dave Knudson’s mathematical fingertapping style and Matt Bayles’ atmospheric synths don’t exactly lend themselves well to a Super Bowl party vibe. But that doesn’t mean they don’t rock, because they most certainly do. But their brand of rock is somewhere between Death Cab for Cutie and The Dismemberment Plan, not Kid Rock.
Beer Commercials, the band’s third EP, doesn’t mark a drastic departure for the band, but it does display a newly groove-based side of the band. Opener “Fine + 2 Points” downplays the math for some more streamlined riffs and a bouncy drum beat. “Dog Park,” however, is one of Minus the Bear’s most rockin’ numbers, built on hard-driving riffage and Snider’s soaring chorus of “We never had one/ Yeah, let’s stop calling this a vacation.” And “Pony Up!” marries samples of metal guitar wankery to some acoustic guitar strums and an almost jungle-like beat.
Though MTB hasn’t been invited by Anheuser-Busch to pitch their product, it might be time for a beer company to give their advertising some indie cred. I can see it now — Pabst Blue Ribbon commercials depicting Pacific Northwest hipsters, set to the music of Minus the Bear. Oh, it would be perfect. But it probably won’t happen anytime soon. Regardless, They Make Beer Commercials Like This is a badass effort from a band who may have a promising future in advertising.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.