Three years since their last album, and has anyone really noticed that The Bees haven’t been around? Not to be cruel to the Isle Of Wight retro-popsters, but they exist in that world where you know the songs without ever really connecting with who sings them to such an extent, that they become almost anonymous. They’re not The Bees, but 'the band that does that chicken song' or the 'band who covered 'A Minha Menina”. A band that have soundtracked a few adverts, played some storming gigs half way up a festival bill and supported some fairly big names.
So, why on earth should we be interested in a new album from The Bees? Because, if you turn that anonymous argument around, you could say that the band are actually more timeless. The music they make, from the stoned slice of sunshine of their debut Sunshine Hit Me, through the infectious rock of Free The Bees, and throughout 2007’s more adventurous Octopus, is without ego or clear cultural signposts. The Bees could have been making this music on the Isle Of Wight back in the Sixties, adding little splashes of dub, latin and reggae to their white indie rock template, or they could be doing it 40 years in the future, and it’d still sound the same.
Needless to say, the band’s new album Every Step's A Yes isn’t a wild step into the unknown. On a new label, and coming out a decent length of time since its predecessor, the new record closely resembles the mood of Sunshine Hit Me, all wonderfully languid rhythms, subtle blasts of brass and hazy harmonies.
Like all of The Bees' albums, it contains a couple of tracks so perfect that you wonder why this band aren’t massive. Opener ‘I Really Need Love’ is basically two chords, a bit of sitar and a dollop of loveliness, which combines into the kind of all-encompassing uplift that would make a hardened cynic weep with joy.
Following it, ‘Winter Rose’ seems ready built to sell us something or soundtrack a festival montage, its chugging organ and slowly insistent chorus stretching out like a particularly pleasant stretch after an afternoon nap.
Of course, the rest of the album isn’t as insistent, and The Bees themselves don’t strike you as a band who are striving for straight-up success, preferring to follow a more meandering path. Instead, it’s full of little moments of invention – the snaking wail of guitar feedback that worms its way through ‘Change Can Happen’, or the hypnotic rhythm of ‘Pressure Makes Me Lazy’ – that capture your attention after a few listens. It’s touches like this that make the record perfect to soundtrack a sunny summer afternoon, or at least make a rainy October morning seem a little brighter.
It also means that the rest of the world will probably carry on regardless, unaware of exactly who sings that song in that advert that they’ve got stuck in their head, or was playing at a party they went to recently. If you’re looking for upfront music from an act you can connect with, The Bees aren’t for you. (The album finishes with 'Gala', a five-minute instrumental consisting of random Spanish mutterings and some mariachi brass, to give you an idea of what The Bees consider a big finale). If you want a record that sounds a little out of step with everything else around it, which brightens its corners with all sorts of musical curios, then it’s a yes for Every Step's A Yes.
8Aaron Lavery's Score