What becomes of a band after arriving, seemingly out of nowhere, with one of the most touching, ambitious, and jaw-dropping albums of the decade? Do they quit while they’re ahead? Do they try to re-create magic and fail horribly in the process? Do they forge ahead and emerge victorious, creating an opus that causes infinite sunshine and children running through the streets? No. They… release a b-sides album?
Kevin Drew, one of Broken Social Scene’s two core members, claimed at one point that the idea of a b-sides album “didn’t sit well with us,” yet through different circumstances the band wound up recording songs in small bunches and found a similar nature running through them all. These songs eventually became Bee Hives.
The nine tracks range in origin from as early as pre-You Forgot It in People to the second half of last year, and they serve as a map of where Broken Social Scene has been through two albums. Mostly instrumental, Bee Hives isn’t comprised of songs as much as sounds like the band’s first release, the organic bedroom electronic Feel Good Lost. The atmosphere, however, is almost entirely influenced by Forgot, layering guitars and waves of static over pounding drums in millennial, sun-kissed arrangements. Drew and Brendan Canning, with their endless list of collaborators, find a way to push the boundaries of what can be considered “pop” even further on Bee Hives; the result is something that is familiar with Dntel and Manitoba’s latest releases, but still sounds only like Broken Social Scene.
“Marketfresh,” from the “Cause=Time” single, is the only sign of Canning’s breathy vocals. It rolls over the horizon like a fog, only breaking long enough for Canning to rebut, “I could have meant it if you let me / I’m frozen.” It’s Bee Hives‘ shining moment, including the self-proclaimed “lo-fi anthem” “Backyards,” which features labelmate Emily Haines (of Stars) on vocals; this track bears resemblance to Forgot‘s “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year Old Girl.” Whereas “Anthems” picks up steam over the course of the song’s duration, “Backyards” flies out of the gate and never looks back.
Bee Hives ends with an alternate version of Forgot‘s “Lover’s Spit” taken from a UK radio session. This version, sadly, doesn’t live up to the album version; this can largely be attributed not to the lack of Canning’s Buckley-esque strains. Otherwise, the song remains true to the album cut, its steady drumming and enveloping piano lead giving way under a graceful string arrangement at climax.
So really, the only fault to be found with Bee Hives is its lack of identity. Its continuity in atmosphere and mood certainly lends itself to that of a proper follow-up, but this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Broken Social Scene. Their latest release shines, but Bee Hives is just a pause at a stop sign; by all indications Drew and Canning are prepared to take the challenge of following up You Forgot it in People head on. I, for one, cannot wait.