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The Bees (A Band of Bees)

Every Step’s a Yes (Deluxe)

(ATO; US: 8 Nov 2011)

Re-releases are, inherently, anti-climatic. This is especially true in America when the original release was more than 12 months prior, and also when that original release was – gasp – not in America at all, but in the United Kingdom. Don’t blame us, we’ve been trained to want everything first. Now. Before anyone else gets it. It’s true: Americans can be selfish.


So be it. At this point in our nation’s history, we may as well reconcile to the fact that we will not always be numero uno. Sometimes, and maybe it’ll start happening more and more, someone else will get something before us and then let the hand-me-downs trickle down into our waiting arms when they think we’re good and ready to accept them.


This is one occasion where we better step up and accept what is being given to us. No, it is not a political decree or a financial plea. It is the Bees (or, for us Americans, Band of Bees, due to a licensing conflict that simply cannot be avoided). Though they have already gained solid ground in their own home on the other side of the pond, they must now begin to dig their feet into the US soil and start all over again. To them, it really is unfair. For us, it is a gift. As they have recently signed with ATO Records, Band of Bees can become more accessible than YouTube videos and delayed import shipments. So begins the reason for this review – an official US release of an album that was released in the UK one year ago, Every Step’s a Yes. However, it should be noted that the US release has five additional “bonus” tracks that the Brits didn’t get on the original (Hah! We win again). 


Being the diligent and international fans that we are, PopMatters.com has already reviewed the original release, but I’ll still quote some of that and give a brief rundown of my own before going into those bonus tracks. Here’s the quote from our very own Crispin Kott:


“The first gentle toe in the water was “Silver Line”, a delicate and plucky number with haunting organs and haunting background vocals and a tingly feeling like sitting in a bathtub filled with warm honey. Then came the single, “I Really Need Love”, which also opens the album. And I don’t know if you have love or want love, but this really is how it might feel, what with the acoustic strumming and the little bridges with their soaring harmonies and desperate pauses.”


To add to Mr. Kott’s words, Every Step’s a Yes is an album full of love, from the 70s psych-pop of “Tired of Loving” to the Pink Floyd-ish ambience of “Island Love Letter”. The tune “Winter Rose” also deserves a loud (perhaps the loudest) shout out, with a calm island groove, a light horn intrusion, and a refrain that you’ll be humming at your desk for hours at a time.


As for the bonus tracks, there’s “Go Where You Wanna Go”, a Byrds-esque tune of harmonic freedom, and the starkly different, ultimately refreshing “The Dink”, a soulful groove complete with horns and lasers and a hi-hat funk that will make you feel like you’re sitting on a trampoline in a light wind. It sounds remarkably like that 1996 Beastie Boys album The In Sound From Way Out!—coincidentally a radically different output from that band than they are known for as well. “The Rip” is a melancholy tear at your heart, perhaps best referenced as “art rock” but with true, not manufactured, sadness. The live version of “I Really Need Love” brings the sitar out front a bit more, the remix of “Winter Rose” shows their proclivity and talent for a mixing board, and the instrumental reprise of “Island Love Letter” is a lovely send off.


Even though a deluxe version of an already released album may seem like just another publicity stunt and an easy introduction into a new market, perhaps you should look at it another way. Think back to the last time you ordered a hamburger in a diner, but when the kind waitress asked if you’d like to make it a deluxe, you thought about it for a second and ultimately decided that you weren’t that hungry. But then, just as you were taking your last bite of that hamburger, sans lettuce or tomatoes, and looked down at the unusually tiny plate, you realized that you needed those fries to top off the meal. You’re still hungry and you just wanted a little bit more to make it complete. Well, here’s your chance. Get the fries.

Rating:

Jonathan Kosakow has been a regular contributor for PopMatters since 2009, and became Associate Events Editor two years later. He contributes to Glide Magazine's Hidden Track blog (www.hiddentrackblog.com), both on his own and as a member of the editorial collective Three Grown Men. His writing has also appeared on Relix.com and Jambands.com, but most of it can be found on the floor of his apartment or stashed away in files on his computer. Jonathan recently earned his Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Denver, and does his best to be an active member of the music and writing community in the Denver/Boulder area. He is the Director of Operations at the Boulder-based company Eco Vessel, and is the co-founder of the music-related website NoiseReport.net, and the beer-related blog beermadeclear.com, both currently in production.


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9 Dec 2010
Every Step's a Yes is more than just a worthy chapter in the Bees' astonishing collected works. It's also a single achievement I'd put up against just about anything else released by anyone this year.
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