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Bees: can be annoying and frightening according to our misplaced fear of the creatures. Some are perfectly harmless, with no sting, spending all day digging holes in the ground, buzzing around and working miracles in the natural world.
Others are more social creatures, living in complex communities working together harmoniously to create something magical, something rich, sweet and delicious. Honey.
The Bees that I speak of are not irritating, don't sting and to the best of my knowledge can't actually fly. (I think) But they do create something magical, something rich, sweet and delicious. Musical honey.
Where can you find this precious commodity, you might ask?
The band, known as the Bees over here and the Band of Bees across the pond, hail from Ventnor, on the glorious Isle of Wight. A haven of musical profoundness that has spawned the likes of Level 42 and The Waltons (although the least said about this punk band the better) so you could say that the Bees are definitely the best band from the Isle of Wight in a long time.
This is a band that you love, but didn't know you knew. Some of the tracks from their first two albums have been used in big advertising campaigns for Magners Cider, Citroen Cars, Sure deodorant and Sainsbury's to name a few.
They have supported Oasis and Madness in the past, so some big bands know and love their product too!
So, who makes the honey, honey?
The Bees are a six piece band with lots of hair. The members are, according to Wikipedia:
* "Paul Butler - lead vocals, guitar, piano, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, mandolin, drums, various percussion instruments
* Aaron Fletcher - bass guitar, guitar, piano, drums, percussion, lyrics, vocals
* Michael Clevett - drums, bass guitar, percussion, hammond organ, vocals
* Tim Parkin - trumpet, bass guitar, piano, rhodes, percussion, vocals
* Warren Hampshire - hammond organ, celesta, acoustic guitar, percussion, jew's harp, vocals
* Kris Birkin - guitar, vocals"
That's a lot of instruments!
What does musical honey sound like?
Well it's hard to describe the product really. It's a mash up of an unusual number of styles ranging from reggae to garage rock; from psychedelic to jazz. There's country, blues, soul and ska thrown in for good measure. In short, this band creates a type of music that defies classification and they seem to enjoy it too.
This album, Octopus, is their third 'studio' album. Well, I say studio, but the first album 'Sunshine Hit Me' was recorded in the garden shed of the front man, Paul Butler, which was met with some acclaim and a nomination for a Mercury Music prize.
The second album 'Free the Bees' was recorded in a studio -perhaps the most famous of them all - Abbey Road. But it was rushed in my opinion as they recorded it on a tight schedule, and budget.
This third album has a holiday feel to it as it was recorded in the newly built "Steam rooms"(looks like a sauna and the name seems to have stuck) on the Isle of Wight , where the band members can relax, have a laugh, play with each others....instruments and generally perfect their product before recording it for the masses to lap up and get addicted to .
Here's what I think to some of the best tracks:
Who Cares What the Question is?
This is one of the best opening tracks I've heard on an album for a long time. It took me right back to a sunny seaside holiday mucking about on the beach in Cornwall. Don't know how. A little bit hurdy-gurdy, a little bit country and folk. A bit weird to be honest. Too much going on on the first listen but by the hundredth you've heard it all: all of it, every single layer and ingredient. Your speakers are on fire!
Love in the Harbour
Overtly country - I think. Great harmonica and geetar. But it also gets a bit rocky in places, so once again they're at it with their mish mash "we're not being pigeon holed" style. It's got that something that just urges you to move around and there's something about the song, and the whole album actually, that is yelling "Suimmertime, beach, barbecues, parties, or all of the above!"
The Left Foot Stepdown
Think The Specials - Ghost town- and you might be somewhere near. It's eery but cheery. Gloomy but boomy. It's the equivalent of a musical Pot Noodle. A very curious mix. Sensational syncopated rhythms and a fair old menagerie of sounds. Magical brass, piano and Hammond organ as well as heavy bassline that together make for a brilliant addition to the album.
Got to Let Go
A real jazz fest and as bold as brass. They don't muck about these boys. They like to blow their own trumpets- and hard! (Now then, settle down). You can imagine a real big band (well six of them at least) with their trumpets, trombones, cornets, whatever they've got pursed tightly between their lips pointing them skyward all swaying together. Fab!. This gets carried away, but it gets you carried away with it. Excellent forte piano sections. Some might say repetitive, but I can't get enough of it.
A track pushed by Radio 2 when it was released in 2007 and my favourite track from the whole album. Maybe I'm influenced by the Video for it though. He's listening to the girl, "yaddayaddayadda" she's going onandonandonandonandon and he keeps listening and keeps listening. Just listening, not saying or doing. Until in a revelation he decides its time for a snogfest. Yes, and a great snog fest it is too. She shuts up and smiles then. She snuggles up to him and they snog a bit more. God we need more snogging in the world!
You can hear Bob Marley in this, some Van the Man Morrison and dare I say it Marvin Gaye? Well it's clear they've been influenced by all three.
Another jazzy smokey joe ska track. Moody and pulsing this still has you moving along despite your best efforts to sit still. A bit darker than the other tracks, this indie jazz track has a ring of something else I've heard. As with all the other tracks, you can hear influences but can't quite place them. A bit of the Coral maybe, or perhaps the Zutons.
(This is for the) Better Days
All the best about jazz and funky stuff rolled into one. It's music for a sunny day. But even on a rainy day, listening to this would indeed make it a better day. Smooth, stylish and technically brilliant Hammond organ once again. Freestyle playing that makes you want to sell your soul to the devil to have that skill. How do they do that?
A sentimental little latin number here that makes you think he can actually speak the language. Don't think he's a native speaker though. I think the words might have been on a sheet, or a white board or a music stand at least. "The incredible perceptions that the ocularists see." I'm also not sure what someone making false eyes has to do with anything. So I'm not sure about this number at all. Except for the fact that it is another brilliantly catchy number and being about the sea, reflects their roots well.
"I've never lifted the morning blanket like I did when you first stayed." This is obviously a boy thing as I haven't a clue what they're talking about, but I bet it's rude! This is another bouncy, rocky, jazzy tune with echoes of the 60s and there's even a Lalalalalala that almost sounds like the Banana Splits. Wow, how do they manage to get all this stuff into their tunes?
End of the Street
They're definitely having a laugh with this one. Lasting less than two minutes, it's cheeky, catchy, bouncy, weird and leaves you wanting more. Using every sound effect they could squeeze in to a song this short, it sums up their style perfectly. Oh, what was that again? Oh yes, a mish mash; eclecticism at its very best.
Oh, that's it I've gone through the whole album and it's all over too quickly - just like the real thing. So sad it has to end, but glad to have a repeat button.
We were listening to this collection of tunes as we drove back from Spain the other week. My dad was driving and he was asking for a repeat performance by the end of it. He's not a jazz fan but he loved it. He's not a 60s fan but he loved it. He hates ska, especially the Specials, but he loved this. He wants me to buy it him for Father's Day or his birthday. He's 67, who'd have thought it -a record that crosses the generational boundary? He likes the country feel to it I think and some of the soul influences.
I just love it. Full stop.
This summer, as you begin to get into a flap about the bees, think twice about swatting, squishing or drowning them.
Instead, take a deep breath, walk inside, reach for your copy of Octopus, insert into the CD player, turn the amp to loud, return to your sunbed than enjoy this quintessentially summer album. But set it to repeat. It's way too short!
You can learn all about The Bees and hear all their happy tunes on:
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Who Cares What The Question Is
2 Love In The Harbour
3 Left Foot Stepdown
4 Got To Let Go
5 Listening Man
7 This Is For The Better Days
9 Hot One
10 End Of The Street