The Bird and The Bee’s enchanting new album salutes and subverts the music of Van Halen with wit and panache. Beck has a cameo on “Hot for Teacher.”
The proudly left-of-center pop group is the brainchild of Greg Kurstin, whose credits include co-writing “Hello,” the Grammy Award-winning song by Adele, and Inara George, the very talented daughter of Little Feat founder Lowell George.
The Bird and The Bee’s delightfully skewed new album, “Interpreting the Masters, Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen,” is the sequel to their 2010 homage, “Interpreting the Masters, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates.”
Their tribute to Van Halen — in its initial, David Lee Roth era — strikes a perfect balance between respectful homage and playful irreverence. The intro to “Jump” features a heavenly, Beach Boys-styled vocal chorale, while the song’s fleet guitar solo has been transposed to synthesizer. “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” is given a synth-pop makeover that suggests a mash-up of Soft Cell and a more vocally capable Banarama.
“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” is re-cast as a sleek New Wave ditty, while the Eddie Van Halen guitar showcase “Eruption” is admirably re-done by Kurstin as a classically tinged grand piano piece. Kurstin also ably transposes the guitar arpeggios at the start of “Hot for Teacher” to keyboard. As an added bonus, Beck makes a cameo on the song, which takes on a very different tone when sung with urbane verve and a wink by George, rather than the perpetually leering Roth.
Kurstin, sadly, won’t be on board for The Bird and The Bee’s Thursday show at the Casbah. But that may give the golden-voiced George even more room to shine, as she simultaneously salutes and subverts the music of Van Halen with wit and panache. Alex Lilly & Samantha Sidley will do double-duty, opening the show and then returning to the stage as touring members of The Bird & The Bee.
The Bird and the Bee, with Alex Lilly & Samantha Sidley: 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29. The Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., Middletown. $16-$18. (619) 232-4355. casbahmusic.com