Summer is overrated. It's hot and sweaty and populated by bugs and smug shirtless gits. Minus the Bear know this and the Seattle band have mined a pretty marvelous seam of wintry, snow-capped indie pop over the last few years. Hell, even when writing songs about speed boats and bikinis they've sounded icicle cool. On album number four though, the white hot 'OMNI', they've only gone and embraced the hottest of seasons and produced some of their hottest songs too.

You can feel the burn from the off- opener ‘My Time’ shimmers like heat haze as bom-chicka-wah-wah hooks unfurl everywhere and Dave Knudson plays a lazy surf solo not on his guitar but the electronic omnichord- and it’s all pretty indicative of where this thing is going. We get throbbing basslines, guitars that glitter like bright white surf, airy clear-sky synths, even steel drums. We get lines about summer angels, hot nights and hotter sex (seriously, the band could probably get arrested for some of these lyrics), and music made for afternoons doing nothing, or maybe just doing something naughty, outside.

It’s not all top stuff. The verses of ‘The Thief’ push the sleazy vibe so far it sounds like a joke (although that chorus is just dreamy), ‘Animal Backwards’, which actually is highlight ‘Into the Mirror’ backwards, doesn’t work, and there’s no escaping the fact that something like epic finisher ‘Fooled By the Night’ would sound better flecked in frost not beaded in sweat. Jake Snider's vocals are still set to divide people too- if you've never heard passion in the dude's breathy drawl then you'll find none here either- and despite the talk of new methods and instruments Minus The Bear haven't reinvented a goddamn thing here either.

Really though, that’s fine. ‘Omni’ may be warm not wintry but it turns out Minus the Bear can be a band for all seasons. And in keeping almost everything but the temperature in a similar state as on their last few records they maintain a quality level and consistency increasingly rare in music let alone whatever genre folks are trying to squeeze them in this week. This is Minus the Bear pretty damn close to their best. Hot stuff.


NARROWS. Underworld, London. 05.05.10

Botch were brilliant. Sure, they sold few records and fizzled away rather than went out with a bang but they will always be standard bearers of smart, independent heaviness and will inspire a new band every day forever whether they like it or not. So to say that it’s good to have Botch frontman Dave Verellen back is an understatement. In fact as the dude opens his mouth and screams the first words of his new band’s debut London show, it feels like the last five years never happened, t-shirts and hair never scored a record deal, and hardcore is just as vital as used to be.

Before Narrows set about saving a genre though, Throats (just one of those bands with Botch in their influences list) throw down hard. And despite being frustratingly young it feels like they’re just inches (or a debut album) away from making the vital transition from angry boys to a black-hearted hate-fuelled expert outfit set to kill. Their weapons are relentless heaviness, big riffs, inhuman barks and ferocious fuck-you songs and very soon they’ll come for you.

Narrows are already here though- amps hissing, feedback flying, and, despite claiming that he’s forgotten to do this kind of thing, frontman stalking the stage like the good ol’ days. And Narrows is much more than Verellen too- alumni of Some Girls, Unbroken, These Arms Are Snakes and Tropics on stage not just making up the numbers but tying together the likes of ‘Chambered’ and the superbly spiky ‘Newly Restored’ with style and skill. It’s not Botch- it’s less like their rows upon rows of razor sharp teeth and more like a grimy, bloodied-gum pitbull’s maw- but it doesn’t feel like a competition anyway. It feels like hardcore punk done exactly right.

It all could have finished completely toothless though as a closing ‘Life Vests Float, Kids Don’t’ is crippled by a power cut but instead of looking embarrassed and sloping off, Verellen (“we knew something was going to go wrong”) just keeps screaming and screaming and finishes the song in the most gloriously gruesome acapella. It turns out to be the best, most dangerous and alive, moment of the night.

Botch were brilliant but their days were numbered, Narrows may be old dogs but they employ old tricks with vicious vigour and sound like they’re never going to let go.