Both musicians and music critics are responsible. Musicians make the music, critics give it a name. When Slint released the seminal Spiderland in ’91, they had no idea that what was already a love/hate genre in the eyes of many a music fan (post-rock/math-rock) would fuse with other love/hate genres (emo).

This fusion of such polarising genres, predictably, resulted in polarising music. Minus The Bear are a typical example.

It’s tempting not to be too harsh on them, they’re clearly better musicians than most. But for all the virtuosity in their playing, they come across more like the saccharine Asia than the boundary-pushing Slint.

Voids is an album of extreme talent and extreme comfort. It may be harder to play, but the overall sound of the record isn’t a million miles away from the stadium indie-pop running rampant through your local arena.

Hence the Asia comparison. They of ‘Heat of The Moment’ fame make music of dextrous technical skill, but little creative value to my mind.

There’s a fine line between the two; Mozart couldn’t have composed his amazing body of work without at least being able to play the piano. Likewise, if Miles Davis hadn’t been a master trumpet player, Sketches of Spain would have fallen flat on its face.

Voids however walks a very safe, radio-friendly line. It combines pomposity with “complexity for complexity’s sake.” The result is considerably less than thrilling.

The fuzzed-up guitar intro to Robotic Heart, the second to last track, provides the briefest glimpse of what might have been if the band had decided to rip that creative envelope instead of licking it. But once the squeaky-clean vocals enter into the equation, the track blends into the bland mush that is the rest of the album.

Voids stays as far away from the abyss as it possibly can. There’s no sense of excitement about it at all, no LIFE to it. If this were a “get busy living or get busy dying” situation, Minus The Bear would be slipping away peacefully with the covers up to their chins.

As is the case with many a band in the 21st century. No one wants to offend anyone, no one wants to make a mark on our humble blue-green planet.

Whether this is down to political correctness or a higher, i.e. more comfortable, standard of living is a question we shan’t attempt to answer here.

Never have we needed a bit of fury more than now. In the eighties they had the hardcore punk movement to balance out the Reagan administration. Where’s our movement? We have the corrupt political system, but nothing to balance the equation. Where did it go?

It ain’t here anyways.

James Fleming

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