Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Monsters and Angels

The internal makeup of a band is a subject that encourages much study and just to prove the point there have been countless TV programmes showing us the grisly underbelly of many well-known conglomerations. But sometimes a band just seems to have the right ingredients from the word go. Consider, for example, this little concoction. Take the following in generous quantities:
A couple of California-tanned sisters (say, Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland)
A UK guitarist with a ridiculous haircut (Steve Jones, obviously)
A famous drummer (enter Woody Woodgate from Madness)
A 50s throwback bass player (Martin Brett)
Some bright and breezy powerpop tunes
A bagload of wry lyrics with more than a pinch of cynicism
Masses of on-stage energy

Mix vigorously then call them something a bit odd, like...ooh...Voice of the Beehive and bingo! VOTB barnstormed the charts for about 9 years from 1987 onwards with some infectious singles, got involved with lots of jumping around on TOTP and offered up two good albums and one reasonably good effort - and then disappeared. During that period I saw them play live twice here in the UK and enjoyed them enormously. I liked the girls’ vocal style which involved unison singing on much of the lyric but then breaking out into two-part harmony to emphasise certain lines or words much in the same way that rappers double up certain key words today.

One particular memory of them is probably their cover of ‘I Think I love You’ – yes the Partridge family thing originally sung by teen heart-throb David Cassidy – as it was one of those occasions when a cover version just clicked. Cover versions are not for everyone, as anyone who has heard Alexandra Burke’s version of ‘Hallelujah’, mentioned in a previous post, will know, but this one is a corker. VOTB rocked it up a bit and gave it some real oomph (musical technical term) so that all vestiges of the dreaded Partridges were blown away, which is basically what you are aiming for when attempting someone else’s song. Even the transformation from male to female vocal does not diminish it and the whole thing sounds fresh and new.

It is such a shame that by the third album only the sisters remained from the original band and a label hop plus general sadness going on in their private lives made it a bit low key. Nevertheless, VOTB were a fun outfit for a while and left us a legacy of some classic pure pop moments. Try ‘I Walk the Earth’, ‘Monsters and Angels’ or ‘I Say Nothing’ (below) and see what I mean.


Jayne said...

Delighted to see a post on Voice of the Beehive! Funnily enough, I have spent much of the last week seeking out their videos on youtube – ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’ and ‘I Say Nothing’ in particular. I used to have one of their albums on cassette (Let it Bee, I think), and always enjoyed it – ‘Sorrow Floats’ was another song name I remember.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the description wry lyrics with more than a pinch of cynicism - yes, exactly that. ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’ really shows that off to perfection.

Even though I did like VOTB, they did just seem to disappear from my radar. I think ‘Monsters and Angels’ came out a little later. It was almost like it was now their ‘grown up’ music (perhaps because I had grown up!) as although I liked it, the single and subsequent songs did not have the same effect on me as their earlier stuff.

musicobsessive said...

Hey Jayne - another VOTB fan! That makes two of us. They are one of my closet favourite bands and were great fun live. If I was to pick an album that represented them best, I would say it was their second, 'Honey Lingers'. Give it a try, I think you'll like it. Alternatively there is a 'Best Of' which contains all but three of the tracks from the first 2 albums.