Entertainment, Death, the new record by Philadelphia’s Spirit of the Beehive hits like you’re slamming the brakes at every red light. And if you’ve heard of them, then you probably know their ubiquitous pin “your favorite band’s favorite band.” In the pandemic era void of touring and meeting with friends, the album birthed from a reduced group: a three-piece consisting of guitarist and vocalist Zach Schwartz, bassist and vocalist Rivka Raveda and more recently, multi-instrumentalist Corey Wichlin.
Without compromise, the band carried the non-genre approach to a different level, and this is especially transparent in their new work. “Psychedelic rock” might be a close neighbor, running in the yards with My Bloody Valentine, Asobi Seksu or Virginia Wing. But even alongside its dreampop and shoegaze influences, Spirit of the Beehive emerges from a place no band has ever crawled out of before. Welcome to hell, everything’s in order.
A texture stands on its own two feet. The lyrics are purposely hard to make out. Melodies exist in rations. Without defined choruses or verses, each song bite slings its one shot, like playing darts. The non-genre approach requires little commitment. And one exciting direction music is heading is one that details something new from start to finish. Conformity will always work, but the Achilles’ heel lies in its lack of delights stifled in a binary of predictable composition.
Their opening track “ENTERTAINMENT” is an episodic narrative. Imagine frantically running around a room popping as many water balloons as possible. Each small explosion of a synth, drum, or vocal beat is calculated to assure the song doesn’t overflow, no matter how non-linear. “Everything is intentional. Occasionally, there are ‘happy accidents,’ however, most of the time is spent making pieces fit together rather than searching for the right piece,” the band said on a Reddit thread. The meticulous construction within a time constraint is like carving dessert statues out of cold chocolate.
“WRONG CIRCLE” feels like waking up barefoot on the beach within a brain-fogged dream. It’s twilight, the birds are chirping, but you don’t exactly know where. Schwartz sings, “Staring over my back / To trace a fading line / I don’t know where I am / no shape no second try.” A wave of paranoia continues to trail you.
But the track driving the most melody and housing the least amount of texture is the whimsical outro, “DEATH.” It’s intentionally sparse, as confirmed on another Reddit thread the band replied to. It’s a purposely abated departure from the rest of the album. What dissolves by the end sounds like chimes, rain or grain and a gloomy showering of sorts. These are popular tropes propelling opening scenes of ominous stories (think Sweeney Todd or Jurassic Park). Though it’s interesting; ending with a start places the listener to see through the band’s non-genre approach. You know the rules so you can break them confidently.
Collectively, the album does its job of upholding its frenetic nature. It’s like being really good at Mario Kart — a lot is going on, but everything seems to fall into the right places. The players never seem to slip off the tracks. In fact, they’re collecting all the special items and using them, while simultaneously staying in first place.
Entertainment, Death is out now on Saddle Creek.
Essential Tracks: “ENTERTAINMENT,” “WRONG CIRCLE” and “DEATH”