Recently, Spain’s garage rock scene has caught the world’s attention, thanks to bands such as Hinds and the Parrots. On ‘Menos Mal’ Spanish indie pop trio Me and the Bees attempt to ride this wave of popularity; combining the harmonies and sounds of the sixties with contemporary dream pop.
With fifteen tracks, the majority of which are sub two minutes, it would be easy to mistake this album as a Ramones rip-off. But once you have listened to the first few tracks, and Google translated ‘Menos Mal’ into ‘goodness’, you realise that it is more siesta than fiesta and certainly puts none of the pain in Spain.
‘Feel Good’ opens the album with an organ and xylophone that immediately recalls Brian Jones’ arrangement on ‘Under My Thumb’. However, the highly addictive handclaps, harmonies and hook create a poppy, British Invasion sound which continues throughout the record. Brian Jones becomes Brian Wilson on ’21, 32, 45, 69’; with Beach Boys-esque angelic, soaring vocals. Here the Costa del Sol becomes the Costa del Soul.
Brian Jones is also conjured up via the Brian Jonestown Massacre vibe in ‘The Only One’ – one of the album’s best tracks. It is the band at their least poppy, pogoing between a pair of chords, call and response lyrics and a simple but suitably scorching solo. Their best songs are their most direct, as shown by ‘Lord’, with its single, repeated line ‘Lord, have mercy on me’.
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However, do not confuse the many different tracks on this album for many different styles. By the second half of the record, the repetitive sugary pop and high pitched vocals in songs such as ‘Desire’, ‘Stop’ and ‘On Fire’ gets tiresome. Listening to these summery sounds is like sun bathing; a nice but completely passive (and at times boring) experience. ‘Los Junquera’ sounds like the Mystic Braves minus the mysticism or bravery, it isn’t unlistenable to, just a bit bland.
That being said, there is some variation. With its descending vocal harmonies and discordant sound, ‘Pink’ is strange and psychedelic. While ‘Sweet Darkest Night’ changes paces and key to become a haunting, reverberating lullaby. At other times the grating growl of a guitar slices through smooth vocals as on ‘True Bypass’, or ‘I Do What I Wanna Do’; jolting you awake from the trance this album puts you in. Finally, despite suggesting a statement of intent, album closer ‘The Past is Back’, meanders in the same dreamy style, but is saved by furious guitar work.
Overall, this album is good at being good. On ‘Menos Mal’, Me and the Bees act like their namesakes producing a colourful, happy album which acts like the harbinger of summer. It is filled with songs to cheer you up and chill you out, but lacks a sting in its tail.
‘Menos Mal’ is out now via La Castanya.