If Bill Shakespeare was right that brevity is the soul of wit, then the Cave Bees’ band bio may rank among the finest ever written — though that’s a dubious distinction, given the self-flattering nonsense typically found on most one-sheets. Theirs reads, “Long story short: Once the Cave Bees rocked. Now they rock harder.” Honestly, what more do you need to know?
Similarly, the Burlington rockers’ self-titled debut is a pulse-quickening exercise in laconic garage-punk efficiency. Clocking in at a shade under 30 minutes, the recording largely comprises tunes from guitarist and lead vocalist Steve Tremblay’s tragicomedy rock opera, Famous Alligator, which, according to liner notes, is “to be released in some form at a later date.” Those nine songs recount the harrowing rise to rock stardom of a, well, famous alligator. It’s a deliciously seedy romp, oozing with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Imagine Ziggy Stardust starring in Rocky Horror Picture Show, reimagined by Robert Crumb, and you’re sort of on the right track.
The story begins with “Mine All Mine.” Backed by a blitzkrieg of Creston Lea’s roiling lead guitar, and bruising rhythmic explosions from bassist Rebekah Whitehurst and drummer Frank Zamiello, Tremblay introduces two of his tale’s primary players: a devilishly sleazy manager and his would-be succubus, Sweet Pussy. The latter gets her full due, in all her woozy, hip-swaggering glory, on the following track, the aptly titled “Sweet Pussy.”
On the third cut, “I Need a Raise,” we finally meet the protagonist — the talented, hopelessly naive and ultimately doomed famous alligator. Through tracks such as “Flight of the Alligator,” “Round Sum” and “Golden Egg,” our hero proves a likeable enough reptile. And Tremblay captures his inevitable fall from grace with a puckish cleverness that would likely tickle the Bard himself, especially on the opera’s Faustian finale, “See You on the Bottom.”
The casual listener likely won’t notice that the three non-opera tracks here are essentially interludes between acts, at least thematically. But they’re also simply great tunes. In particular, the garage ballad “Muskrat Love” and the following track, “Lunacy,” round out the Cave Bees’ debut in raucous fashion. Cave Bees might be the best local rock release in a year already rife with them.
In other words, once the Cave Bees rocked. Now they rock harder.