The personal is apolitical. With this simple inversion of an old cliché, you'll discover why Covered in Bees (who disbanded in September) were so important. In an era where punk is a global phenomenon and many musicians' lyrical subject matter asserts little more than vague, impenetrable glimmers of an emotional life, CiB unabashedly wrote rally cries for the city they live in, however unglamorous it may be. Their live shows reflected this: they were glorious, riotous affairs where willing participants sacrificed personal space in favor of a collective ideal. Few local bands invited so many to the party.
The biggest strike against Portland Steel, their farewell CD, is that these songs won't get proper live treatment. In "Rock Staple Scissors," a cheeky, anthemic lament to the futilities of D.I.Y. punk show flyering, frontman Boo Leavitt calls out the "White Heart and apartment renters" among those who discourteously obscure his band's show posters with notices of their own. "Drive This 7" Wooden Stake Through My Portland Heart" gives a nod to Philly vamp-punk band Ink & Dagger's politics of place and adds a Portland (anti-)foodie twist: "We just had the night of our lives/hi-fives and stage dives/it's time for bed but I'm not ready/Hey dudes, let's go to Denny's." It's not always easily digestible material, but many can relate.
When CiB widens the scope, the tracks are hit-or-miss. "Fire in the Basement" is catchy as hell, but it suffers from some contradictory political sloganeering. "The Girl With the Octopus Arms" is a charming limerick exercise, but doesn't exactly demand multiple listens. On the other hand, "The Black Grimace" and "God Damn the Queen" both employ the darkly melodic formulas of early Turbonegro to a chilling effect.
In building a legacy, the imperfections are just as important as the triumphs. Covered in Bees, in their six-year run, gave us plenty of both. It's no live show, but Portland Steel is a fitting swan song to our most ugly-duckling band.
Nicholas Schroeder can be reached atnschroeder[a]phx.com.
PORTLAND STEEL | by Covered in Bees | released on Entertainment Experiment
: CD Reviews
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