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A Band of Bees

℗ 2007 Virgin Records 0946 3 81986

℗ 2007 Astralwerks Records ASW 92788

A Band of Bees  2007  Octopus

The most intriguing collective of multi-instrumentalists since the Beta Band first began mixing an unholy array of accompaniment, the Bees (or A Band of Bees in America) channel some of the same '60s influences on Octopus as on their two previous records, and a few new ones as well. Fortunately, as usual, listeners who couldn't care less about playing a game of spot-the-influence are rewarded just as much as those who do; Octopus presents ten nuggets of effortless throwback pop, laid-back and breezy but tightly melodic. A trio of straightforward pop pleasers begins the album, all with the same jaunty, freewheeling character as a Beta Band jam (or a Kinks pastorale, for that matter). After a pair of marvelous detours Got to Let Go is organ-combo rock with a Caribbean flair a la Georgie Fame, while Listening Man echoes the high points of blue-eyed soul in the Rascals the Bees are back on track, although perhaps even more mellow than on the first half. Although not a concept album, Octopus does often return to the nautical theme (or more generally, travel away from home) that's de rigueur for indie rock during the 2000s, but here too, the Bees know that too much concept and not enough music is a bad trade-off. Without this set of brilliant songs or the masterful way they mix and match their instruments, the Bees wouldn't sound half as interesting as they do; they wouldn't be anything more than a retread of their '60s influences (or, perhaps, their retread of XTC's '60s influences). John Bush.