Minus the Bear are breaking up. Depending on who you are, that will likely provoke one of two reactions that would sound something like, “What’s a ‘Minus the Bear’?” or, “I know right, terrible news!” Such has been the nature of the Seattle four-pieces’ career, their unique brand of early 80s math-rock meets the indie-pop of the early 21st century cultivating a solid cult following, even if it never quite made indie waves in any meaningful way. Consistency, though, has been the key and any number of their avid fan base will wax lyrical about the band’s ever-evolving and sophisticated layering of tapped guitar, complex time signatures and clever use of synths and electronics.
Fair Enough, then, feels a fitting way to close out a solid career of nearly 20 years – with neither a bang nor a whimper. No grand album finale – though the farewell tour has begun in earnest – but rather a brief, four-song EP that serves as a snapshot of all the qualities and progress of the band over the years. Consisting of a range of tracks that explore their diverse experiments with sound, much of the album stems from refurbished songs and sounds that didn’t quite make the cut on previous releases. Opener ‘Fair Enough’ serves as the clearest example of this, left on the cutting room floor for previous album Voids but revived here as a soaring example of the kind of catchy but heavy anthems they’ve become known for. With chiming guitar lines building to an increasingly overdriven chorus, it’s a defining song that works perfectly as an opening for a farewell album.
The rest of the EP plays out as a microcosm of sorts of the band’s 18-year career. The raw energy of ‘Viaduct’ feels a throwback to the early sounds that launched them onto the scene with its driving drumbeats and intricate tap guitar work, while the slow and steady unfolding of ‘Dinosaur’ around a basic but lingering midi motif – allegedly first created on a iPhone – demonstrate the more patient and restrained maturity they’ve developed over the years. This culminates in the lush synths of the closer, a Sombear remix of Voids favorite ‘Invisible’ that serves as both a beautiful song in and of itself as well as a nod to the long list of collaborations and remixes they’ve done over their career. All in all, it’s a fitting end to a career that – while not celebrated in the known sense of the word – has been celebrated by enough people that it speaks for itself. You get the sense the fellas of Minus the Bear didn’t feel the need for an enormous closing album to see themselves off. Their loyal fanbase knows what they are about, and Fair Enough is a little gift to say, “thanks for everything”.