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A Band of Bees – Free the Bees

May 13, 2011 Leave a comment

4AD Records, 2005

Oh boy.  It’s one thing to pick a band up at random out of a bin and hoping for the best.  The mystery is part of the excitement of picking up dollar discs, for you could wind up with something that is spectacular or completely awful.  Unlike those situations, I already knew about A Band of Bees due to a previous review I’ve written of them on this blog.  Therefore, by buying this record I was willing to take the chance that they were actually better than what I had heard before.  Some bands you hear once and just need to stay away from, but A Band of Bees weren’t that bad, so I figured I’d cough up some more dough on them.

This Bees record wastes no time in redeeming itself from its predecessor with the absolutely catchy “These are the Ghosts”.  I think the layered vocals, combined with the consistently brash drumming, make the straight forward indie rock jam a fine introduction.  Thankfully it truly is a good case of foreshadowing regarding the quality of the rest of the record.

Since I was expecting another one of those mildly interesting, decent indie pop albums I thought my hour’s worth of listening was going to be tolerably standard.  However, “Chicken Payback” showed to me that A Band of Bees are not just going to lie around and deliver the usual.  It is such a dance number, this “Chicken Payback”, due to many factors.  First, the light rhythm guitar riff and drum rhythm sound like a 50s throwback rock setup.  The lead guitar also screams 50s if not surf, but it’s vocalist Paul Butler’s excited delivery of the nonsensical lyrics that add wonderfully to the song.  This song definitely was the watershed moment of thinking these guys were a little more than the typical output from a modern band.

Another impressively strong track is the slow doo wop sound of “I Love You”.  The pleading in Butler’s voice, the collective crooning from the rest of the band, and that distant trumpet during the chorus remind me a little of that melancholic Motown vibe.  Dudes who are reading this should thinking about finding this song to score some romance points.   Without gushing over too much else on this disc, (even if it’s quite good throughout), I’ll mention a few more great tunes.  “Go Karts” has a tone that reminds me of a quirky Beatles tune fronted by Paul McCartney, while “This is the Land” comes across as a flower-waving seventies pop jam.  “The Russian” is an excellent five minute instrumental with its mixture of jazz and funk. “This is the Land” is another song of many that reference a sixties sound, which when mixed with some modern styles of composition, sounds quite good.

A Band of Bees can be heard online in a few places, such as here, here and here.  They’re still around so a live show could be in order as well.

Unlike my review of their debut record, this one by A Band of Bees sounded absolutely great.  I think Butler’s voice has that quality that won’t drag on the ears from too much exposure.  In other words, it blends well with the music without trying to step in front of everything to make itself noticed.  The band also seems to be a lot more interesting in its variety of approach, making each song enjoyably unique.  I have to say that my opinion of the group has changed and I’ll be looking forward to hearing their subsequent records.  Here guys, have a Golden Dollar for this one.

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