Maple Bee - Home

Tim Miller 08/12/2008

Rating: 3/5

Melanie Garside might not ring too many bells, even as the name behind her current solo moniker Maple Bee, but you will almost certainly have heard some of her recorded output to date. After a misfiring start with Tabitha Zu (though they landed a Reading slot in '92), the multi-talented Garside emerged into the spotlight as bassist in Queenadreena, before moving on to singer/songwriting duties with Mediaeval Babes and now vocalist with electronica artist Huski. Solo wise, Maple Bee is the platform through which Garside does things completely her own way, and newie Home is actually her second full length under that guise.

And, initially, it's promising. The mid-paced pop-rock stomp of opener While You Were Sleeping is irresistible, catchy vocal melodies and resonant harmonies making for an all conquering chorus; sure-fire single material, which in fact it was a week before this album's launch. Two songs among the first few tracks in a similar vein, Quiet the Silent World and Mirror, hark back to more edgy mid-nineties female-fronted acts, like Sneaker Pimps, Alisha's Attic and, particularly with the latter track, Tin Tin Out, a brilliantly sultry pop song scored sparingly with brass and strings.

Me and Rose is Maple Bee's first acoustic number of LP, and again is high on quality, the songstress's vocals this time breathy and delicate, stepping lightly on top of the guitar arpeggios. More of this follows on No Place, which could be a little-known Madonna rarity with its acoustic guitar and piano motifs. But this stripped back approach is the direction the majority of the remaining songs take, and ultimately serves to highlight an imbalance that, had it been addressed, could otherwise have made Home something a little bit special.

The broody and rather dull Queen 23 is the musical sibling to previous track No Place, save for the odd smooching of cello, while I Want It All smoulders teasingly from trip-hop Massive Attack beginnings, but never quite breaks into the explosive rocker it wants, and ought, to become, to some disappointment. The short and indulging Sweetness in Your Light adds nothing to the album, and while Somebody Take Me Home and are both dark, hypnotic cocktails of Maple Bee's soft acoustic haze, it's left to closer This Place This Name, revisiting that earlier alt.rock edge, to haul back the listener's by now wandering attention.

Contextually, Home isn't a bad album at all, the sort of thing you might put on while getting to sleep, reading or studying, or just winding down, especially at this time of year, and its atmosphere is far from cold, despite the delicate layers on which chunks of the album rest. Much of the lyrical content seems to fix upon location and belonging, and this is the sort of album you can be sure of and return to, comforting, reliable and just...well, nice. What it does lack is punch, or spark, possibly as a result of it being a single-handed creative work, possibly owing to the range of similar sounding songs, where an effort into making more out of a shorter trackisting may have crystalised things. That is not to write off Maple Bee's second LP, however: more than anything it adds a fully-realised songwriting string to the increasing bow of this solo female, and one whose story to date is positively glittering by today's fleeting career standards.

Released 17th November 2008