When it comes to breezy indie pop, there is no other band quite like the bird and the bee. Formed in 2005 by Inara George and Greg Kurstin, their music is a mix of beautiful acoustic melodies with George’s voice adding a sweetness that is calming and luxurious. And maybe that’s why the focus of their new covers album is such a surprise.
Interpreting the Masters Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen is the 5th album from the bird and the bee and their second cover album in 10 years. Their last cover album, which covered the pop classics of Hall and Oates, was an ideal fit. Their decision to cover Van Halen’s biggest hits for their new album, however, seems a little left-field but surprisingly, but it really works. When you think of Van Halen, you think of macho glam rock and wild sexual innuendos. But under this over the top, in your face rock’n’roll lies lyrics that, when interpreted, have a whole new feel. And who better to interpret these than the bird and the bee?
Van Halen is the epitome of 80’s rock and roll. Every track is drenched in a sound that is so specifically 80’s. So when you listen to “Panama” you wonder, “How did they make it sound even more 80’s than the original?” With grouped Accapella group vocals with a simple drum beat, “Panama” is a real earworm. It gets into your shoulders and makes you move. The synth dubbed bass ties it all together to create a track that is, I dare say, better than the original.
“Running with the Devil” has never been my favorite Van Halen track, but it is definitely my favorite on this album. With a calm piano intro bringing George’s somewhat-earnest voice to the fore, the bird and the bee have taken all the heat and anger from the original and converted it from a wayward travelers tale to the story of someone sweet, covert and dangerous. Unlike the original, that sounded like a simple statement of facts, this cover is more emotional. It sounds weary, dealing more with the emotional fallout.
Starting out slow and somewhat hymnal, “Jump” becomes instantly recognizable through the synth-drenched vocals of George. With a basic drum beat and vocal backing, the bird and the bee manage to keep the essence of this anthem and turn it into something that is quintessentially them. The guitar solo is replaced by an energetic synth solo that is drenched in long blonde hair and general 80’s nostalgia.
A notable track, that is not in fact, a Van Halen track is “Diamond Dave”. This track is the bird and the bee’s own tribute to David Lee Roth. Originally released on their album Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, it has been reimagined to sound like a soft speakeasy classic.
There has always been a level of danger associated with Van Halen but the bird and the bee have taken out the sting. Interpreting the Masters Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen is a revelation. Each track sounds different from the original but somehow manages to sound exactly the same. By ditching the electric guitars and infusing their own jazzy sweetness, they have created an album that brings a new perspective to Van Halen’s classics.