A Band of Bees
Free The Bees
Released: 6/2005
Label: Astralwerks
Catalog #: 73513
Rating:  Not Yet Rated

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2002’s SUNSHINE HIT ME was the work of two Isle of Wight shed-bound mates, eyeball to eyeball across their analogue equipment. FREE THE BEES sees the band in their expanded form. Two years on, the original duo of Paul Butler (vocals, guitar) and Aaron Fletcher (bass) formed a scratch band and there is no evidence of the growing pains that often bedevil follow-up albums recorded with additional personnel and the dubious luxury of a multi-track recording desk. Even in Abbey Road, the maximum the band allowed themselves was 16 tracks. And if anything, FREE THE BEES is cruder than its predecessor, at least in terms of its sonic finish, and is all the more liberating as a result. It’s as if, making huge strides in the songwriting department, Paul and Aaron saw a need to cling on for dear life to the rawness and ardor that lent their debut its urgent immediacy And this is where A Band of Bees stands apart. They not only defy categorization – they revel in such an exercise’s absurdities. With ease they flit from beat group frug, to ‘70s soul, progressive rock overtures, raucous reggae, the rhythmic oom-pah-pah of a one-man-band, chaos, the eerie grooves of an Eastern Europe spy flick, and free jazz. It could go on and on – “Horsemen” wins over shams like the Darkness with outlandish stadium pomp and a chorus that infects you as each word is sung (think Frampton!). While “I Love You” is a completely straightforward soul ballad bearing those very sentiments. As for the effect on their music of recording in that famous studio, A Band of Bees clearly succumbed to its strange magic: listen to the razor-sharp guitar, to the bass-that-thinks-it’s-the-lead, on “This Is The Land” or opener “The Ghosts,” and you’ll hear just why Paul and Aaron were lured out of their shed. As you will, indeed, on each of FREE THE BEES’ twelve tracks. They represent irrefutable (and life-affirming) evidence of a band still hopelessly in love with the idea of being in love with music. This US version of FREE THE BEES features two bonus tracks: “It Isn't Exact” and “These Are The Ghosts (Undead Version).”

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