The inebriated young man on the dancefloor turns to NME, drops his jeans and reveals his undergarments: leopard-print leggings with an alarming rip in them. Tonight, readers, we are (quite literally) as far away from the Barfly as is humanly possibly (well, without leaving the UK). We’ve flown the length of Britain to the Orkney Islands, aka The Land That Indie Forgot, to report back to NME HQ on our anthropological findings. We’re also here to review The Bees, who are playing a gig at the island’s only nightclub, Fusion.
As we step out of the propeller-powered plane, it’s clear that music has never strayed too near this island. Actually, that’s not strictly true. A bunch of proto-electro Norse noiseniks had a minor hit in March, 1308 with ‘Hump My Juicy Bitch Teet’, but faded away after a disappointing second album. Aside from that, though, musical markers are few and far between. The Orkney Wireless Museum has a few Elvis LPs in it, a lone bagpiper is spotted trundling along the harbour and, ummm, British Sea Power once namechecked Scapa Flow, the mass of water between the islands, in their song ‘Carrion’. Normally, we like to prepare for a gig by sniffing glue, but here we have to get our seedy kicks petting a stray Shetland sheep instead.
At the venue, there are posters for Celtic folk act Gwenda & The Shogun Boyz who seem to be playing every single night apart from tonight. Support band The Guttersound kick things off. They sport the most ludicrous ginger dreads we’ve had the pleasure of mocking, sound a bit like Nickelback and end with a drum solo. During this time, the locals display frequent behaviour patterns, such as necking bottles of WKD, dancing the jig and falling on the floor. However, no typical displays of indie behaviour, which include being crap with girls and possessing an enhanced ability to discuss seven-inch releases by Animal Collective.
Luckily, this begins to change when The Bees arrive. “We! Love! Bees!” begins the chant before the scruffy stoners amble on. They’re offshore dwellers themselves (from the Isle Of Wight) so they’re used to the crowd’s feral nature. Hence the drunken, vomit-strewn fever they whip up with the new songs such as ‘Better Days’, all of them clattering along like a lo-fi Zutons. There’s more soul in the new songs – blasts of mariachi horns, reggae-rhythms and even flirtations with funk.
As a rule, 105 minutes would be deemed long for a set, but judging by the reaction each track receives they could play for seven straight weeks and there’d still be calls for an encore. “You lot are officially more nuts than the Isle Of Wight,” is the band’s verdict as they leave the stage after the storming R&B blast that is ‘Chicken Payback’.
Critics of The Bees’ music might label it a tad ‘retro’. Luckily, this remote outpost is a little behind the times and the ’60s haven’t even happened yet. In fact, the 1260s haven’t happened yet, hence the reason why at least half the population seem to be married to their own sisters. Relax, Orcadians, we’re just joking around. You are, in fact, a lovely and most accommodating bunch of six-fingered freaks. And you have made good inroads into learning indie.
After the gig, the DJ starts spinning ‘Empire’ and ‘Supermassive Black Hole’, while the crowd yell along to Rage Against The Machine. Clearly, the Orcadian race are closet indie fans who’ve been set free from the disapproving glares of their elders by The Bees. Indie music is set to revolutionise this isle. You listening, Gwenda & The Shogun Boyz? Your time is just about up.
Professor T D Jonze, Department Of Indieological Studies, NME