THE BEES: EVERY STEP'S A YES (2010)
1) I Really Need Love; 2) Winter Rose; 3) Silver Line; 4) No More Excuses; 5) Tired Of Loving; 6) Change Can Happen; 7) Island Love Letter; 8) Skill Of The Man; 9) Pressure Makes Me Lazy; 10) Gaia.
No, no, no. What are they doing? Nostalgia and classic rock worship are one thing, but crossing Crosby, Stills, & Nash with Atom Heart Mother-era Pink Floyd is carrying it way too far. On their fourth album, The Bees abandon any «rock» aspirations altogether, and plunge into the world of acoustic jangle, faraway trippy vocal harmonies, snowy atmospheric organs, moodiness, reverb, and echo. Rhythm? Groove? There's, like, no audible bass guitar on most of these tracks. They simply invite you to kick off your shoes, sit back, and relax. Pot wouldn't hurt, either.
Frankly speaking, this is suicide. Butler and Fletcher are not songwriting geniuses, and neither are they sonic wizards — when, for instance, The Flaming Lips were recording The Soft Bulletin, the final product was so overloaded with minor atmospheric touches, production effects, mixing techniques, etc., that even if you could not remember the melodies, it was impossible to deny the monumental ambitiousness and the sheer amount of work that went into it. Every Step's A Yes, in comparison, utilizes only the bare ingredients. Guitar, keyboards, vocals, echo, there you go. Add to this the usual nice, but not stunning, melodies; the usual nice, but not stunning, vocals; the usual clever, but not overwhelming, lyrics; and the expected reaction is... why the heck did I bother to listen to this bland stuff a whole five times?
The subversive counterargument is that, on its own, each individual song is «acceptable». 'I Really Need Love' bops along some upbeat acoustic strum, the most sunshiny tune on the album, a nice, mind-numbingly catchy (because of the endlessly repeated title) folk anthem that gets its required three thumbs up from Steve Stills and his buddies. 'Winter Rose' has this tired, world-weary groove punctuated by the tired, world-weary brass section and the tired, world-weary vocal delivery. 'Island Lover Letter' goes for gorgeousness in its vocal/acoustic interaction, and, technically, gets there, although I still hate the vocal for some reason. Etc.
But overall, this is just mind-numbingly boring. You'd think that, in the year 2010, humanity would have learned to make bold steps ahead in the art of crossing folk, psychedelia, melancholia, and romanticism. Well — you have another think coming. Naturally, the Bees do not speak up for the entire humanity, but Every Step's A Yes is, so far, the 2000s' best and most convincing proof of the fact that «nostalgic» tributes even to «peak» musical eras can be as trite and forgettable as generic «modern» pop crap. The only difference is that Every Step's A Yes at least sounds «nice» while it is playing. Will even a single one of these songs be more than a momentary blip on the radar? Will 'I Really Need Love' ever replace 'Love The One You're With' in the public conscience — even if its lyrics may be more «intelligent» than the latter's? Will the moody epic 'Skill Of The Man' and the gallant minstrel ballad 'Island Lover Letter' find a place on the same shelf as Nick Drake and Sandy Denny?..
To make matters worse, the last track unexpectedly offers an uptempo «redemption» after thirty minutes of revved-up moodiness: 'Gaia' is a calypso-whatever dance number that, being all alone in that stylistics, feels like a last-minute bonus addition. It isn't particularly interesting, and it certainly does not do much to perk up the spirits. It just reminds us that the guys still remember how to set up a dance groove. Uh... big deal?
Thumbs down in disgust — even if I do not hate any single track on its own. Take the judgement with a grain of salt, though. It should not look like I'm saying that The Bees have lost their talent, or interest. As I already stated, Sunshine Hit Me was the only album in their catalog that tried to say something mildly special, anyway. It's just that, when faced with a mediocre upbeat pop/rock album and a mediocre atmospheric/«folk-artsy» creation, my own dear little psyche will always go for the former. Basically, gimme a so-so energizing pop riff instead of a so-so «angelic» vocal melody. A third-rate Beatles clone instead of a third-rate Beach Boys one. But honestly, I believe that making a successful «ambient», «atmospheric», «folk-pop», or «symph-pop» record takes far more skill, talent, and dedication than making a successful pop-rock record. So why don't these guys just stick to their Octopus schtick instead?
Check "Every Step's A Yes" (CD) on Amazon