Bees : Free The Bees

Someone please put them on the same bill as The Byrds...

The problem today’s bands face is that we’ve reached a point in history where it seems every last bastard with a pair of ears and an internet connection owns the same records. The anointed canon that runs from ’50s rock’n’roll, through ’60s girl groups, folk rock and psychedelia, ’70s reggae, singer-songwriters, punk and funk, ’80s hip-hop and ’90s electronica is a path of easily digestible cool so well-established that the same limited palette of influences is sprayed across hundreds and hundreds of records, most of them useless.

And there’s nothing more tragic than a useless, unloved record. Personally, if I have to hear even one more bunch of cretinous shit-eating little monkeys attempting to sound like the fucking [a]Beach Boys[/a] then I will jump straight into a taxi, speed round to their putrid smelling digs and beat them worse than Murray Wilson ever beat poor, chubby Brian – and look at the state of that bastard. In fact, I may even follow Murray’s lead and make them shit on a newspaper in their own front room. I’ll decide at the time.

Anyway, do they all think that we’re stupid or something? It’s not difficult to sound like King Tubby tweaked your drums, or Angus Young wrote your riffs, or Brian Wilson scored your harmonies, or [a]Morrissey[/a] tossed off your lyrics, because all the hard work’s already been done dreaming up and establishing all those brilliant textures and ideas. What’s really difficult, and what most bands never bother to attempt, is to make something new out of all those ideas, something that’s all your own, something you can leave for the people who come after you. But then, why bother when you can twat about with vintage ‘gear’ and pretend it’s 1974 and being in a rock’n’roll band is still a dangerous, high-wire adventure rather than a comfortable career option with a fuck-up trajectory roughly in line with IT or NHS dentistry?

Happily, on an island situated just a few miles from our own shores (Isle Of Wight), some young men more familiar with facial hair, red wine and ganja than maybe they should be have realised that all the influences in the world are dead unless they’re used as a gateway to a whole new world of aural pleasure. Those men are The Bees and, frankly, I want to hug them one by hairy one, often, purely because the very least thing they have going for them is a whole different set of records to steal from.

There’s ‘The Russian’, which pitches the sort of shifting-sand, Afrobeat mentalism created by Fela Kuti and Tony Allen against heavyweight chicken-shack funk then proceeds to strip the whole lot away until only the ghost of a whole other track remains. There’s ‘No Atmosphere’, where raw-lunged pre-Beatlemania Brit-R&B dressed in Mark E Smith’s fetid Armani sweater gets drunk enough to enjoy whacking its todger across a piano keyboard. Then there’s ‘I Love You’, a ’50s button-down jazz ballad played to an empty dancehall at the end of Britain’s loneliest pier; or ‘One Glass Of Water’ and ‘This Is The Land’ – two shiny-eyed, psychedelic love songs as tuned into the drone-power of ancient British folk music as they are the gently acid-tinged, candy-striped mid-’60s radio pop of The Young Rascals. The former seems caught in some embryonic stage where none of the brash energy or pleasure has yet been drained by overplaying or overproducing, while the latter is stuffed with rich harmonies and strapped to a brain-addling bassline. ‘Hourglass’ threatens to burst into a chorus of [a]Byrds[/a]’ ‘Eight Miles High’ before thinking better of it. The influences are clear enough, but [a]Bees[/a] make their psychedelia or shroomadelica – like they make all their music – sound fresh, full of life and hungry for excitement where others seem content to sound wasted, like that’s enough.

Look, I don’t know exactly how they do it, all I’m saying is they do. Some of ‘Free The Bees’ could have been recorded 40 years ago and some of it could have been beamed down from an orbiting space station 3,000 years further along the pipe than us, but who cares anyway? It’s the dreaming, the trying, the experiments that count in this game. Free The Bees and your mind will follow.

Rob Fitzpatrick

Get ‘Free The Bees’ at the NME Shop