100 for 2000 – #47. The Bees – Free The Bees

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2004 – #7. The Bees – Free The Bees
(Virgin)

Trying to figure out who you are is the aim of the 20s. When you’re playing in a band, finding that identity is doubly difficult. For me, the Bees came into my life. They took the elements of music I loved, mainly 60s garage rock and 70s soul, and made something that didn’t sound like power pop. With Free the Bees, they made a perfect record – up there with Lovers and United as crazy pop masterpieces of schizophrenic intent.

I am always drawn to these little perfect pop albums. I spent a lot of time hunting down these minor masterpieces, the pop nerd favourites. Free the Bees is one of those albums. The kind of record we will tell people about and they will hunt it down and it will be great.

Not that this record is overly obscure, thanks to the unlikely hit single of Chicken Payback. Which is odd, because it’s the song that sounds most like Nuggets cast-off. You’d imagine it’s slightly insane teens in the 60s with a couple of big keyboards and some sort of matching outfit (maybe with capes). That 40 years after the Nuggets, these british guys can tap into that spirit so clearly, it’s great. It’s like they took the British Invasion back.

(I had first heard of these guys as there was some buzz in old man rock circles about their first album, where they covered an Os Mutantes track. Mojo magazine readers world wide began to salivate.)

The keyboards are a big part of this record – those buzzing organ sounds like in Wash In the Rain, the keyboard riff in No Atmosphere – makes them not sound like any other band at the time (although they sound like several from another time). Absolutely nothing here sounds like 2005. It barely sounds like anything past 1972. They even recorded the thing at Abbey Road.

If there is one down side to this record, is that’s it has no heart. It’s a fun, fun ride, but there is nothing going on lyrically or thematically. My favourite track on here is about Go Karts. The gorgeously out of time ballad I Love You is more about aping some Dusty Springfield production than any expression of affection.

I loved this album, and it made me realise, fuck it, I can sound as dorky and retro as I liked. There was no need to try to emulate all the Lou Reed/Joy Division wannabe bands in Sydney. Fuck em in the ass. The number of support slots we got plummeted, but every show was better than when were trying to support the latest cool band. Who are all dead now.

In a recent conversation with my friend Tom, the Bees and the Coral both came up as bands that we just kind of love what they do. And how jealous we were at their artistic freedom. I also like the anonymity – it’s not a lead singer show, it’s a band show. Maybe one day I can be in a band like that myself.

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