Label retrospectives are not without a degree of risk: it's easy for compilers to fall into the self-indulgent trap of looking after your pet projects, with the line by extension between vanity exercise and faithful cataloguing dangerously a thin one.
The guys at Wall of Sound will probably feel that they're worth it. Twenty years after their first and fondly remembered compilation 'Give 'Em Enough Dope', they're back to celebrate their 21st in business with a two disk, thirty-odd song opus, the idea to map the imprint's evolution from big beat boutique to its later, more cosmopolitan artist roster.
They've got the sense to start with two stone cold killers as well; it's been donkey's years since we heard the Propellerheads' 'Take California' or Royksopp's 'Poor Leno', but we're happy to report that both are still headphone gold. There are also selections from the respective acts at their peak, which is less than can be said, however, for some of the other choices strewn across the first disk. The problem here isn't a lack of the quality in the contributors - we've got stuff from the likes of Zoot Woman, The Bees and Les Rythmes Digitales - but they've all produced better material than that featured here, a point best illustrated via The Bees on the jazzy, underwhelming scat of 'A Minha Menina'.
Still drenched in the psychedelic retro edge that they've always offered, The Bees' fourth album is another solid and, to some extent, timeless release. Since their Mercury nominated debut in 2002, the Isle of Wight 6-piece have quietly and contentedly perfected their craft relatively shy of any limelight, with two full length album releases passing by us in the meantime.
Every Step's A Yes opens with 'I Really Need Love', a trademark, toe-tapping folk number with strummed acoustic guitar, brushed drums and glimmers of distinctive sitar. Despite its' repetitiveness, The Bees immediately prove a chirpy, fresh and likeable sound. 'Winter Rise' continues with a laid-back bluesy feel, cute brass backings and a contented gentle offbeat emphasis suggesting hints of mellow reggae in the vein of a more folky and accessible version of The Coral or Gomez perhaps. This is contrasted somewhat with the Simon & Garfunkel-esque gentle acoustic guitar and smooth vocal harmonies of the sweet blues-folk number, 'Silver Line'. Similarly, the mellow bluesy guitar of 'Tired Of Loving' is serenaded by the same lush vocal harmonies.
Continue reading: The Bees, Every Step's A Yes Album Review