On their third album Me And The Bees have thrown every sugary pop plastic spoon and princess bowl at the Euro-indie kitchen sink so we can certainly mark them high for effort. On Menos Mal, literally “Goodness”, generic wholesome song titles like opener ‘Spinnin’’ (the apostrophe is so carefree!) and ‘Feel Good’ do exactly what they say on the tin but are at times thankfully juxtaposed with lo-fi Stephen Malkmus style guitar driven singalongs, no less poppy but easier on the saccharine.
So, the Spanish trio are not for every occasion or every mood, nor indeed everyone. Named after a song by The Softies, themselves as sickly as Tarta de Santiago, they brim with infectious melodies and a radiant lo-fi-ness. It’s as though Me And The Bees exist in a bizarre parallel universe which branched off from ours after Alphabeat’s Fascination but before the American subprime mortgage snowball later the same year. At best it’s harmless indie escapism, at worst it could have soundtracked Disney’s Teen Beach Musical.
The menage et trois of Esther, Carlos and Veronica interchange vocal duties so on ‘True Bypass’ and ‘If You’, Carlos’ off-pitch twang and distorted guitars sound like Pavement after an explosion at the candy floss factory. Similarly, the heavily accented ‘I Do What I Wanna Do’ is archly lo-fi perhaps betraying an underlying irony too deep for this reviewer. Elsewhere, far from being a serious coded message like those shortwave number station transmissions, ‘21 32 45 69’ is a beautiful chorus reworked into a full song and ‘Feel Good’, on first listen honky-tonk Blondie but played back takes on a surreal loveliness.
Across the fifteen tracks on here (everyone knows fifteen is at least three too many) Menos Mal is like one of those records that occasionally rears its head by 16yr old Japanese punks or, er, Shampoo. It doesn’t seem real at times, like a strawberry lace in a world of noodles. However, as it goes on it’s difficult not to get absorbed into its gloriously unflinching optimism, the tremendous ending of ‘I’m On Fire’ or the wonderful, naïve tenderness of ‘If You’. On aforementioned single ‘Spinnin’’ the twee is turned up to ten but in the best possible way.
You may think I didn’t like Menos Mal, but then I realised it just didn’t take me as long as the record lasted to conclude that it exists outside of any serious musical realm or age as the band embrace the magic of their everyday lives, and that it was best to embrace it too. So, in awarding Menos Mal seven out of ten I am also issuing a proviso that those listening do so at their own risk as this is a record not suitable for fans of virtually every other genre of music, apart from on that one day of the year where the temperature is just right for a barbecue, when it’s impossible to get too drunk and the cigarettes grow on trees. Or at least have lives as magical as theirs.