The Shoebox of Delights – #17 – Chosen by JC
Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos – The Beta Band
Bands very often don’t quite live up to their early work and here perhaps is the best example of a band that were guilty of exactly that. Every single minute of the first three Beta Band EP’s is essential listening (yes even ‘The Monolith’) and for me the best of the bunch is the third one ‘Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos’. Strangely I’d been thinking about doing an Imaginary Compilation for The Beta Band and I still hope that when I head off to the cricket in the next few days they will magically appear as the 11th track and force me to write it. Also I recently sold my vinyl copy of ‘Champion Versions’ to an American guy on Ebay for £110 so they hold a special place in my heart, just for that (saying that I also got £35 for a 7” copy of the very first Stereophonics single – a record which I would have actually given away for free, I digress).
So let me gush a bit about The Beta Band, if you ask me – and you sort of are – The Beta Band helped drag rock music into the 21st century and didn’t really get any credit for doing it. At the end of the 90s Britpop was dying on its arse and The Beta Band came up to it stroked its head and said ‘follow us’. They opened the door to a wonderful new world. A world where hip hop rock electronica, folk and summery pop tunes could be melted together to form a new sound.
Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos is perhaps the darkest of the three EP’s and it is a much slower type of record. Three of the tracks on here ‘It’s Over’, ‘Push It Out’ and ‘Dr Baker’ appear to be a little preoccupied with death and heartbreak. It the middle of ‘Its Over’ you hear Steve Mason sum this up by singing ‘Please reassure me I’m doing all right’ (you are doing just fine Steve). Then you get some Bird Song, and that is never a good idea in music, but here, it works.
‘Push It Out’ starts with a solitary cymbal and it’s quite an otherworldly track sounds like it was recorded in space or deep under water. After the cymbal you get bass, piano, and then handclaps. Then drums come in and then…Then Steve Mason starts singing. Sublime.
‘Dr Baker’ has a simple sound piano led but it’s a beautifully sad track. The way that the piano twinkles along with a vocal that is a bit chant like and does it continuously over the track seamlessly is brilliant and seemingly effortless. I want to mention the lyrics that appear mid way into this song
“Dr. Baker phoned me again later that day/Said he cried and he really sounded out of it/His wife was dead and his dog was dead/And misery planned inside his head/I tried to reason with him, tried singing/He said, “No boy you’ll never listen”/Try it again, try it again/Try it again, again, again”
I mean, that beautiful isn’t it? If there has to be doom and heartbreak and anguish and ultimately death, I hope that when I meet my maker, Steve Mason is there to sing to my loved ones because, well just because.
Then after all the doom, you get ‘Needles In My Eyes’ a track which is profoundly hopeful – it contains lines like ‘Last night I dropped my heart and I never want to see it again’, a line which describes numbness and emptiness better than most other records that try. Obviously this is the Beta Band’s ‘break up’ record, and it is I guess a pretty sad set of tracks, but the way ‘Needles In My Eyes’ lifts it is nothing short of genius (In my eyes this is the second best track they ever recorded, after ‘She’s the One’ and before ‘Dry The Rain’).
We all know that feeling, and we all think at the time that it will last forever – and whilst its pretty obvious that Steve Mason is feeling terrible, after listening to this, you know he is going to make it – Ok it took a few years and a questionable first actual album before he got there –but he got there.
This is an utterly wonderful record – why it sat so long in my attic waiting to be downloaded I cannot work out, perhaps I thought I’d already done it (I have had the other two EPs done and dusted for years). Doesn’t matter, quality still sounds like quality when you find it again.
mp3 : The Beta Band – It’s Over
mp3 : The Beta Band – Push It Out
mp3 : The Beta Band – Dr Baker
mp3 : The Beta Band – Needles In My Eye
So that was Number 17. Let’s have a few more numbers please…..
The fact that my choice of #17 turned out to be the same band as was featured in last weekend’s Scottish song is completely coincidental…..it’s like those time when you have your i-pod on shuffle and the song you are thinking of comes on next in a 12,000-1 chance.