Album : Octopus (3rd Domestic LP)
Release : 06.26.07
Year Founded : 2002
Label Name : Astral Werks
Catalog # : 92788
Packaging Type : Single-Disc Jewel Case
Members : Paul Butler, Kris Birkin, Michael Clevett, Aaron Fletcher, Warren Hampshire, Carly Lacey, Heather McCallum, Andy Parkin, Itchy Parkin, Tim
Runtime : 39:18
Area Tour Dates : None at time of publication
Sound Season : Spring, Summer
iTunes Worthy Tracks : Love in the Harbour, Got to Let Go, End of the Street
Sounds Like : The Sadies Favourite Colours
Rating : B+
Anyone who listened to A Band of Bees' (also known as simply "The Bees") last album, Free the Bees, probably experienced the sort of deja vu that I did. Hearing the album for the first time actually felt like I was hearing it for the first time in 10 years. The songs were immediately familiar even singing and humming along. From song to song, the album was a mish-mash of styles ranging from 60s garage to 60s soul to 60s pop rock, but always sounding distinctly 60s. So much so, in fact, that you often had to wonder if they weren't just playing covers, or if the band was in fact a band from the 60s whose tapes had fallen behind the shelves only to be unearthed 40 years later.
Octopus continues that trend, but has A Band of Bees getting a little more creative. Regardless of the fact that Free the Bees was an absolutely stellar album, one gets the sense that the band caught a lot of flak for sounding too much like their forefathers. So, instead of playing what could be construed by some as sound-alikes of popular tunes from back in the day, they try to forge their own way. They end up sounding quite the same stylistically, but the songs are less familiar. The listener now has to work a little in order to grow into the songs. And The Bees make it worth it.
The opener is a merry jaunt not dissimilar to (aptly enough) "Octopus's Garden." That is followed by "Love in the Harbour" which has a very Byrds-esque folk-rock twang and sing-along chorus to it. "Got to Let Go" is a powerful song in the sense that it just makes you shake. The combination of the busy rhythm, the catchy horn and organ melody, and the punctuational bass really infiltrates your nervous system and for that five and a half minutes your motor functions are at the mercy of The Bees. The lyrics then seal the deal with their wit and fancy.
cutting the grass before breakfast
cleaning the park
I'm there till it's dark
but I'm saving up for a Lexus
The album hits a bit of a lull with the soulful slow-burner "Listening Man" and continuing through the groovy "(This Is for the) Better Days." The latter being the only one out of the three that continues to not sit well with me. The guitar is so soft and smooth I think Kris Birkin may have been playing a jar of Vaseline. Having said that, the song isn'y nearly a failure, it just that its redeeming qualities don't effectively nullify my discomfort. But whatever aftertaste is left by the slimy "Better Days" is quickly neutralized by the mouthwash of the bi-lingual "The Ocularist" and the especially fun "End of the Street."
Whereas Free the Bees was all old, Octopus is both old and new, and in that sense A Band of Bees have challenged their fans. They want to see who among them likes them for who they are rather than who they remind them of. And anyone who is looking for more than just a nostalgic rehashing should be happy with Octopus.