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Friday, April 04, 2003  
The Bees
Sunshine Hit Me
We Love You

Sunshine on wax. This record is delicious.

For the last 25 years or so the most important influence on British music has not been American pop or our own rich musical heritage, as it had been for the first 25 years of pop’s life. It’s been the Caribbean and reggae. Ever since mass immigration from the Caribbean began 40 or more years ago, England has been vibing off the sun-kissed tunes of West-Atlantic shores, Marley and Pablo, Perry and Tubby, taking the sound and the spirit of this beautiful, vibrant rebel music and filtering it through our own consciousness in myriad brilliant ways. England fell in love with those blissful reggae grooves just as much as the people who brought them over fell in love with our meritocratic post-war economy and the opportunity for material success it afforded them. They gave us lilting harmonies, skanking rhythms, stoned melodies and the musical soul of Jah, and in return we enslaved them to the spirit-sapping capitalist grind. Hardly fair.

From The Clash and The Specials through Linton Kwesi Johnson and London dub, Notting Hill Carnival, Public Image Limited, the spiritual roots of acid house and rave, Massive Attack and the early Bristol sound systems, Screamadelica, drum n bass, UK garage, up to present-day descendents of those early Jamaican jams from Ms Dynamite to Roots Manuva, reggae has bled through British music unlike anything else since rhythm and blues first hit these shores in the late fifties, and for that we should be thankful. Praise be to Jah for the music of the sun come to dry our rainy island souls. Too often we need reminding of reggae’s influence on our music and culture.

The Bees are two blokes who hail from a garden shed in the Isle of Wight, an island not known for sun-kissed beaches or unfurling jams, and yet their music is shot deeply through with the spirit of Jamaica. And Spain. And New Orleans. And San Francisco. And a whole host of other places where beautiful music has been born and raised over the last century. Like The Beta Band before them, The Bees are in love with music and in love with sound and in love with evoking the warmth of the sun on our faces. From the opening bars of “Punchbag” with its dappled electric piano, mesmeric brass and easy groove, talk of monkeys and holes in the back of your head, Sunshine Hit Me is a document of bliss. “Angryman” and “No Trophy” catch almost perfectly the sound of late 60’s / early 70’s Kingston, the former all swirling, sparkling hammonds, insouciant falsettos and lilting bottom end, while the latter wobbles in on the most authentic skank you’ve heard since you were a kid and summers were long and hazy and full of languid adventures.

The simple pleasure of listening to this record is almost immeasurable. “Sweet Like A Champion” is a soporific reverie, “Lying In The Snow” a beamingly odd psychedelic haze, and “El Minha Menina” a spectacularly uplifting child of grooving British pop whimsy and deliciously lovelorn Hispanic folk shot through with irresistible blues licks. Wistful pastoral harmonies evoke The Kingsbury Manx, the magpie-like eclecticism recalls early The Beta Band shorn of procrastination, and the indolently beautiful tunes are reminiscent of Air’s Moon Safari. Piano-led instrumental “Zia” plays out a dizzy elegiac somnambulance, sounding like nothing so much as Bill Evans on tranquillisers on a beach on some faraway island, whiling away the hours until… whenever.

Breezy Bacharach horns and sublimely romantic honesty play out the final track (“I wanna hold you / like the sky holds the sun…”), the sound of a perfect summer evening drawing to a delectable close. Quite simply, Sunshine Hits Me is fantastic.

4/04/2003 09:24:00 am


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005