By: Jamie Jones
Beehoover | website | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on February 26, 2016 via Unundeux
You have to admire Beehoover‘s conviction. Unlike most 2-piece bass n’ drums bands plying their trade in the realms of heavy rock Beehoover will not budge from that limited set up. After 5 records many less stubborn bands might have thrown in some guitar by now, if not gone all out and roped in some strings or synths or something to add an extra colour or two to the pallet. Not Beehoover – their faith in the purity of their concept still hasn’t wavered.
Which would be a real problem if that set up didn’t work so well for them. Drummer Claus-Peter Hamisch has always had the versatility to keep things interesting, pulling the tracks into different shapes when Ingmar Petersen, who continues to do things with his chugging, downtuned bass that I didn’t know was possible, settles into a riff for too long. They manage to sound positively massive despite their supposed limitations and work across a cavernous dynamic range, mixing up odd tempos with an impressive ability to turn on a dime from a whisper to a roar. Whenever you think their bag of tricks has been emptied they find something new to pull out to surprise you with.
If you haven’t heard those tricks before that is. The fact is there’s little on Primitive Powers that fans won’t have heard some variation on before – even the slight deviations from the drum and bass basics, like the crashing waves that introduce ‘Embers’ that bring to mind the thunder and lightning backing of Concrete Catalyst‘s ‘Wild Geese Yell’. Whether that’s an issue or not depends on how hungry you are for more of the same a sixth time around. There’s been no drop in quality along the way – if there’s been any change it’s that they’ve become slightly more subtle in their song writing. Tracks like ‘Pissant Wings’ may not hit quite as hard as the ones on Heavy Zooo or The Sun Behind the Dustbin and its hooks might take a little longer to get stuck into you. But given a few listens they undoubtedly will.
Peterson’s vocals and sardonic lyricism remain their secret weapon, boasting as he does the pipes of a latter day Jello Biafra and the wit of a Germanic Neil Fallon. Case in point for the latter – ‘Bombs & Bagpipes’, an ode to British army officer and all round loon Mad Jack Churchill, reported to be the last person to kill someone with a bow and arrow in action. In 1940. Putting aside the strange notion of a German band celebrating a soldier famous for felling one of their countrymen with an archaic piece of weaponry Mad Jack is in many ways the ideal patron saint of Beehoover – a figure that lived straddling the line between bravery and insanity, with a hard headed devotion to an ideal (here Peterson paraphrases Churchill’s motto of, “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed”) that no amount of reason or logic could deter. “While bombs exploded he continued to play the bagpipes,” they sing, with the familiar death rattle bass and heavy artillery drums combusting in the background. It’s easy to see why this anachronistic, no-fucks-given figure appeals to them.
For theirs is a hermetically sealed world into which little new seems to enter. As such they reference themselves throughout Primitive Powers: ‘Anti Zooo’ is led by the quintessential Beehoover low slung stoner rock riff and as that triple ‘o’ suggests it’s a straight throwback to the strange, Frankenstein’s menagerie obsessed Heavy Zooo record. And it’s elephantine groove is worthy of the best stuff on there. Elsewhere they follow established patterns: ‘Millwheels of Being’ is the classic stoic broken-but-unbowed riposte to an uncaring world with a surprising dose of emotional honesty in it’s low-key second half. ‘Light My Pyre’ is the softer number, a power ballad from an alternate universe where sporadic bursts of doomy crashing chords and guttural screams are expected between choruses on the radio.
All of which should be a slight on the band perhaps – but then who’d write these songs if not Beehoover? They may be formulaic – but it’s their formula, one that’s been hard won and that no one else seems to be able, or willing, to follow. So why alter a winning pattern? Primitive Powers might not be Beehoover’s best record, but it’s a collection of worthy additions to their canon that ought to satisfy fans expecting more of the same. And anyone expecting anything else probably ought to have been paying more attention. And it’s as good an introduction as any to this pair of holy fools making an unholy racket in their strange little corner of the musical world.