ALBUM REVIEW: SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH
Dreams are quite possibly the most difficult concept for an artist to try to accurately capture. David Lynch captured it well in Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, he understood more than anyone I’ve ever seen that dreams are not supposed to make surface-level sense. They are these obtuse impressions that our subconscious creates between wakefulness and sleep, fragments of our insecurities, memories, desires, horny thoughts and greatest fears. Lynch makes it abundantly clear that all these themes lurk under the service, but the images we are presented with feel like our world but horribly glitched. In Mulholland Drive, for example, the old couple in the beginning completely changes casting from the airport scene to when they’re in the limo. It’s the type of thing that makes me ask, “did that really happen or am I being fucked with right now?”
Before 2021, I’d never heard of SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE. But after their half dream, half nightmare, part psychedelic dream pop, part harsh noise opus ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH dropped yesterday, I had no choice but to pay attention. When a band so accurately captures something so common as dreamscapes in such specific and rich detail, what other choice do I have but to give it an A? Their 2018 project Hypnic Jerks could not have predicted this bold new direction, truthfully I don’t even know how they created some of the sounds on their new album. It’s some Kevin Parker-style studio alchemy.
SOTBH, like a cozy dream or a nightmarish acid trip, make fluid music with no lines. Songs on this album just do whatever the fuck they want with absolutely no concern for what the listener wants. They give you a good song, and then go, no fuck you here’s a better song. “THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO” is a perfect example. It starts as a kind of creepy, shoegazy female fronted pop track with vocals from Rivka Ravede, then moments later the entire track is swallowed whole and spit out in the form of Zack Schwartz screaming at the top of his lungs over distorted guitars and feedback. Or dear lord, how does one even begin to tackle “I SUCK THE DEVIL’S COCK”, this song is such a glorious mess. With a name like that, many might steer clear. But listen and what you get is a FOUR part epic that goes from campy jangle pop to harsh noise interlude to sweet melodies to jerky post-punk to Flaming Lips heady rock in under 7 minutes.
Listening to this album is so psychedelic in how fragmented it feels. I hear the second half of “IT MIGHT TAKE SOME TIME” and Zack’s falsetto mixed with the trippy background reminds me of The Strokes vs Animal Collective, and then nope, the track moans and I go, wtf, stop that. And then the next track goes STOP! And I’m like WHOA! It truly feels like getting on whatever amusement ride is on the front cover, like I’m willingly entering the devil’s mouth and hoping that I don’t have some sort of insane life changing experience, but that’s exactly what I got on this record. The album just stops, starts, transitions, changes genres, etc. whenever it senses that I’ve gotten comfortable with what I’m hearing.
Vocally and instrumentally, this is one of the most sonically diverse albums I’ve heard in the last 5 years easily. “WRONG CIRCLE” starts off with a New Age blast of sound that’s a dead ringer for Daniel Lopatin’s work on the Uncut Gems OST, then it becomes an Avey Tare-type song with a female vocalist pop gem. “RAPID & COMPLETE RECOVERY” is a bongo heavy chillwave banger a la Washed Out but with acoustic guitars and this incessant ringing sound that somehow sounds good. The opener “ENTERTAINMENT” is a harsh noise experiment for part one then it fades into a pretty even keel rock song with readable vocals, but right after that we get “THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO” where the vocals are washed out and unrecognizable from the effects pedals. The beat to “BAD SON” sounds like “Accordion” by Madvillian in the beginning with its prominent bass and hip-hop drums, but slowly it turns into contemplative jangle pop. The band tries everything and risks it all and doesn’t miss on a single song. There is not one song on here that I don’t absolutely adore in some way.
Before I wrap up, let me get into some of the themes of this album. The main one, as I already mentioned, is dreams and sleep in general. “WAKE UP (ROTATION)” has the lyrics “I’d utilize subterfuge to emerge unscathed/But paralyzed, I lie wide awake once again”, it’s so impressionistic but packed with meaning. His lies keep him in a state of uncertainty or sleep paralysis, keeping him LYING in a half dream half wakeful state. “THE SERVER IS IMMERSED” has the lyrics “Dozed on Ativan, I was out of my mind/Please, you don’t know the truth/But at least I know that I do” in a song about paranoia and being followed by “they” whoever “they” are. This album truly is like Ativan or trazodone or Ambien, it puts the listener in this calming sleep state with its psychedelia but keeps you up with its rough thoughts and feared anticipation as to what the fuck is coming next.
This album is just a sandwich of greatness that has it all. We get song of the year material with highlights like “THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO”, “GIVE UP YOUR LIFE”, “THE SERVER IS IMMERSED”, “IT MIGHT TAKE SOME TIME” and “I SUCK THE DEVIL’S COCK” in between a schizophrenic intro and a heady, thought provoking outro. “DEATH” reflects on the title, “I feel every moment/Like anything can happen/It can happen to me, eventually” Zack expounds over a beautiful combination of strings and guitars, “Entertainment, death” he continues. In this time especially, it’s become increasingly clear that’s what life is. We’re entertained and distracted by all the wild things that life throws at us and more literally the movies and music that make up our cultural digest, and then we kick the bucket. One day you might find yourself in the hospital at 85, watching Ridiculousness (somehow it’s still on) for 5 hours straight because you’re too weak to change the channel, and the next moment your time of death is declared and your toe tagged. Entertainment, death.