If Cucumber Castle was hyperbolic, 2 Years On is pervaded with an insipid feel and, for me, a sense of disappointment and anti-climax. They got back together – for this? Had the brothers used up their stock of quality material on their 1970 solo albums? Perhaps but thankfully, as it turns out, they were also stock-piling for 1971’s Trafalgar.
Off their high horses
It’s clear the Bee Gees weren’t going to get back on their art-pop high horses to continue where Odessa left off. Given the splintering in rock which had grown into a chasm during that 1969/70 hiatus, it just wouldn’t have been a credible move. Indeed, the low-key feel of 2 Years On can be heard as a deliberate antidote to the ‘excesses’ (which I would argue were not excesses at all) of their red-velvet high watermark. Only Lonely Days (the album’s only single) feels vital and attention grabbing here, though being just short of a Beatles‘ pastiche it is hardly impressively original.
For once, Bill Shepherd’s arrangements seem to suck the life out of the (fairly lifeless) songs. Most are slow paced and sometimes over-stretched; The First Mistake I Ever Made is a repeat offender.
We have so-so country (Portrait of Louise), a would-be weepie (Tell Me Why) whilst the raw, lively though slightly out-of-place tour blues lament Back Home is annoyingly allowed to dissipate. 2 Years On might have worked in Robin’s Sing Slowly Sisters style but as an album opener it’s just uninspiring and meandering (nice chorale prequel though). Sincere Relation is Robin at his most eccentric but with its gravely portentous ‘but then he died …’ can’t make me feel much – a shame as I sense it’s probably a most personal piece. Robin’s contributions generally come off worst of the three.
Sub-prime Bee Gees
Hearing 2 Years On makes me long for the clipped precision of songs such as Lemons Never Forget. The album actually feels most successful at its most incongruous – the stripped-down Back Home, the swampy Every Second, Every Minute (mimicking 1968’s The Earnest of Being George) and rootsy Lay It On Me which playfully hints at Maurice’s drink problem. But these diversions into sub-prime Bee Gees territory often feel more forced than earlier excursions such as Lemons Never Forget (why do I keep coming back to that song?)
The brothers are in good voice and of course it’s great to hear them harmonising again but this hardly trumpets a return to form let alone an inspirational new departure. Overall 2 Years On lacks identity, feels pedestrian and fails to create much in the way of atmosphere.
Already two albums into the new decade but it seems as if the Bee Gees are adrift in the 70s. Thankfully they get it together on Trafalgar.
2 Years On 
2 Years On
Portrait of Louise
Man For All Seasons
The First Mistake I Made
Tell Me Why
Lay It On Me
Every Second, Every Minute
Singles 1970 [related to Two Years On]
Man For All Seasons
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