Uh-oh, a follow-up to a much-loved Britpop album. That can only spell "high expectations." And that's the major problem with "Free the Bees," an otherwise lovely sophomore album by the British pop band. They shift their sound a bit, but retain the lush 60s influences and bright melodies.
Their first album was pieced together in much rougher circumstances -- in fact, it was stuck together in a garden shed. So the Bees get to make their sound a bit more polished this time around. It's perhaps not coincidental that they recorded "Free the Bees" at Abbey Road, since they seem to have soaked in the summery psychedelic vibe of the sixties.
That's most evident in songs like "Wash In The Rain," a summery pop tune that is washed in Hammond organ, or "One Glass of Water," a charmingly retro sound that is completely catchy and sweet. And they stray a bit from the sound with "Horseman," which is more influenced by harder rock from a decade later on. And "Chicken Payback" is nothing but hilarious.
The Bees (formerly "Band of Bees") are not known for their originality or wild experimentation. They're known for making good pop music, and they don't disappoint here. Their music absolutely reeks of the summer of love, and they obviously are influenced by plenty of older bands, wandering happily from sixties psychedelica to seventies rock. But with that in mind, their music is warm and refreshing.
The best word to describe the music is bouncy -- the Bees call on snappy drums and cheery basslines and guitar riffs for their energetic sound, as well as some deeply moving Hammond organ. To finish off the sound, they inject some exquisite little harmonies that would make the Zombies wipe away a tear of pride.
Those looking for a bit of sun in the middle of winter might need this. The Bees sound very retro in their second album, but seem to be having plenty of fun as they travel back in time.