No, not Wu-Tang Clan. I’m talking about those other Bees. You know, that group of British boys calling themselves the Bees/A Band of Bees/The Bees UK. They’re the ones whose DIY debut album, Sunshine Hit Me, knocked everyone off their feet back in 2002. Dark nights, scattered candlelight, and Paul Butler softly singing that he “want[s] to hold you like the sky holds the sun?” Surely you remember them.
Well, they’re back. Although the sextet’s Octopus garnered lukewarm reviews upon its March release earlier this year, the album is nonetheless indicative of a band growing up and growing out. Layered instrumentation runs rampant on stellar tracks such as “Got to Let Go.” A full-blown brass section (fit enough for a trumpet solo), organs, and the vocal melody make this spectacle of funk one of the album’s shining moments.
Then again, “End of the Street” carries over much of what the band found (and lost) through their sophomore LP’s triumph “Chicken Payback.” On the one hand, the animal yelps are still there. Nevertheless, “End of the Street,” while possessing incoherent lyrics, does not come close to capturing “Chicken Payback’s” irritatingly infectious jubilance.
It is hard to write this entry. Sunshine was one of those albums that, well, hit me. Hard. Hearing Butler say “use me like a punch bag” is too much for me even now. And while I wish they had continued down a low-key path, I have to admit they certainly do have a knack for flare.
And flare sells; people can perform a number of marketable active verbs (e.g. exercise, dance) to flare. The problem is a lack of consistency and/or stamina. Both Free the Bees and Octopus have enough sparkle on them (production-wise as well) for an EP, but the lulls fall flat, and comparing “(This Is For The) Better Days” to Sunshine’s “Sweet Like A Champion” leaves me wanting.
I never know what to say to people who clamor about whether I should praise a throwback band. They always holler, “What do the Bees bring that’s new?” Tons, in my opinion. Newness isn’t the issue—direction is. If Sunshine was as forward as this band could go, then I see no problem with them going back, having fun, and making oft-entertaining albums.
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