Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Bees - Octopus

A band that has the ability to transport you back in time may sound "vintage" or "old school" or even unoriginal. The Bees (or A Band of Bees as they're marketed in the U.S.) don't feel like they're from this decade, or this generation. Their musical influences are tied closely to 60's rock; incorporating blues patterns, layers of guitar and shuffle rhythms. They can sound like the Kinks or the Beta Band among others. But for all of these '60s influences, the group manages to sound current, yet they're willing to cherry-pick from artists and styles they admire when necessary. The Bees were started around 2001 and hit the ground running; starting with their Mercury Prize-nominated debut Sunshine Hit Me. But in the years since, I would say they remain relatively unknown outside their native U.K. which is somewhat unfortunate.

On their third release Octopus there is nary a bad track. They all range from the enjoyable to almost exceptional. Managing to take the best of their influences and create a wonderfully tasty stew with elements of rock, blues, R&B rhythm, and a dash of psychedelia. Octopus is (thankfully) an album you can put in a just push play. No need to jump from track to track (except for the last track in which they try too hard to be something they're not). Rock music now often has too many lyrics. Meaning, artist feel the need to fill gaps with words rather than showcasing their instrumental skills. Although, maybe all the singing helps disguise the fact they may not have a creative instrumental bone in their body. Of course this isn't always the case, but should be noted that The Bees make sure to leave room for some instrumental gymnastics. Octopus is a great success on many levels. They have matured and sound exceptional, moving from being a multi-instrumental duo to a sextet of great musicians. The reason they don't sound like just another band with similar 60s/70s influences is way their songs are crafted and arranged. The combination of instruments, and the interplay between them gives a freshness to their music that sounds vintage, yet up-to-date and current.

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