Album Reviews

The Beta Band – Heroes To Zeros

(Regal) UK release date: 26 April 2004

The Beta Band - Heroes To Zeros “The trouble with doing your own thing is you end up on your own” thankfully hasn’t been the case for The Beta Band, who sing this lyric in Simple off their latest album Heroes To Zeros. Doing their own thing in fact defines the band against all the same-sounding fame-seeking acts around today. And far from ending up on their own, they have amassed a merry band of followers from around the world. Even John Cusack played Dry The Rain off their debut album The Three EPs in the film adaptation of High Fidelity.

The Beta Band have frustrated a lot of journalists who get a blank stare when asking what the band’s “influences” are. Said journos just don’t understand that The Beta Band are nestled snugly in their own pigeonhole; so there’s no need for namby-pamby cross-referencing or crows of, “Yah, that song evokes the angry roar of The Stooges with a dappling of Morrissey,” like some Jilly Goulden of music critics.

Even with their latest album, the genre-warpers and surrealists of sound are at it again – barking dog samples and boingy electronica, orchestras and electro bass, bongos and xylophones, all with the ever-plaintive singing of Steve Mason creamed on top.

However, it is true that Heroes To Zeros is alarmingly guitar-driven, making it more mainstream than their usual experimentalist tendencies. There are clangy staccato strums in Assessment, upbeat acoustic rhythms in Easy, and dark electric in Liquid Bird. But even if the guitar takes centre stage, it does so behind a whole menagerie of sounds and samples.

The album has 18 months of Beta Band brain behind it – the foursome have happily had time to tinker with every note; a far cry from their rushed second album, The Beta Band, which they themselves proclaimed was rubbish. .In contrast, each song’s soundscape in Heroes To Zeros is beautifully crafted. My favourite is Wonderful – the delicate dissonance in the repetitive line “she’s so wonderful” makes way for an adulatory chorus with reverbed voice and golden guitars and pianos.

Out-Side has tumbling aggressive drums with a two-beat rhythmic dog bark, but come the chorus the beats abruptly halt and are replaced by the rising angelic line, “I love your way.” The tubular Space Beatle also has a euphoric rise in the chorus with the line “I love you to pieces” after a liquid organ carries the verses.

With this latest offering, the creative quartet have made their music more accessible to the general crowd while maintaining their distinct sound. In my opinion, the Beta Band are definitely a Better Band for it.

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The Beta Band – Music: The Best Of
The Beta Band interview: “Being under pressure is like being a caged animal – we start snarling!”
The Beta Band @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Guilfest 2004, Day 1 @ Stoke Park, Guildford
The Beta Band – Heroes To Zeros