"When I return I'll buy you a grand You can play the piano In your own little band"
There’s something heartening when you discover a band that’s obviously not part of a media-hyped ‘scene’. Released during a period where tie-rock, Brit-pop revivalists and Coldplay-clones still held sway here in the UK, at least as far as rock music goes, Octopus confirmed that The Bees particular brand of shaggy retro-revivalism just didn’t seem to enjoy a nice comfortable niche.
Much like their spiritual brethren The Coral, The Bees embraced rootsy neo-psychedelia, ensuring that, while they may not sold many albums, they were at worst interesting and at least entertaining and while Octopus may have been a shade more commercial than it’s two predecessors, The Bees certainly had not lost their way and were still more than happy to pull in some light-reggae or even vaguely jazzy sounds if the song warranted it.
Even with a slightly fuller sound, some over-produced vocals (something which makes some of the songs on Octopus sound considerably less intimate than they should do), the spectre of Syd Barrett still loomed high over The Bees in the same manner it loomed over The Shins at the time, but with markedly different results. For all their psychedelic revivalism, The Bees wouldn’t shy away from a great pop song, even if it was as brilliantly daft as “The Ocularist” and even the organ-laden funk of “Got to Let Go” lends itself to filling the dance floor at the local student union.
While it’s doubtful that The Bees will ever be the critics darlings in the same way that say, British Sea Power are, Octopus is arguably their strongest album to date, boasting enviable musicianship, great tunes and the feel of a band who actually enjoy what they’re doing. While this may not have sold a lot of albums or guaranteed record deals, it is something which has kept The Bees’ audience coming back for more, as well as leaving a jolly legacy for future generations to discover.
In the decade since its release, a lot of people seem to have Octopus pegged as a summer album – not me though – from spring showers, to winter downpours of rain, to foggy mornings, Octopus is an album that can lift the spirit and make thrilling sense regardless of the weather conditions.