AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #59 : THE BETA BAND

A guest contribution from S-WC.

the beta band

Stop Fighting with your Thoughts – A Beta Band Imaginary Compilation

One of the best scenes in the film High Fidelity is the scene where the lead character who works in a record shop says ‘I will now sell five copies of The Three EPs by the Beta Band”, it was around that moment when the Beta Band were finally a ‘cult band’.

That one line, probably the most iconic plug for a band in a movie ever, summed up the power of Steve Mason’s band from Scotland. A band that as I have said before on these very pages dragged rock music kicking and screaming out of the Britpop malaise and influenced and wooed everyone from Noel Gallagher to Thom Yorke. Back to the film, John Cusack in the movie then played ‘Dry The Rain’ and people will buy it and even though you don’t actually see anyone part with their cash (its film, right.) you know that at least five copies will have been sold before closing.

The Beta Band were brilliant, they merged hip hop electronica, folk and pop music together and it came out as one sound, one incredible massive sound. But at the same time they never took themselves that seriously, they mucked around, wore stupid hats but we let them because their music was so good. Yet they never really had the global success that they deserved, each record they released struggled to find its audience. They released three album plus the ‘Three EP’s’, the first one ‘The Beta Band’ is often overlooked because the man itself described it as ‘fucking awful’. It isn’t by the way, it’s actually pretty good.

I once got punched for saying that Pink Floyd were shit. They are, face facts Pink Floyd fans. The second Beta Band album ‘Hot Shots II’ sounds like what Pink Floyd were trying to sound like, where Pink Floyd disappeared up their own arses in a self-indulgent toss fest, the Beta Band did it in a restrained and focused way. Yet ‘Hot Shots II’ is a sad and anxious record full of songs with titles like ‘Gone’, ‘Broke’ and ‘Quiet’. I blame Radiohead for this as the Beta Band spent most of that year touring with them. ‘Hot Shots II’ is almost perfect, full of rhythms and beat that are massively ahead of its time.

In 2004, the third and final album appeared this was ‘Heroes to Zeroes’ it was a bit of dramatic shift – its not a bad record but they tried to make it sound more commercial and whilst it has its moments like the Siouxsie Sioux sampling ‘Liquid Bird’ and the terrific single ‘Out Side’, it feels a bit flat in places. A band pushing to make it on the radio and failing so they simply gave up. The Beta band were always a band who thought to much and spent too long in the shadow of Radiohead so here after a few weeks of planning is the Beta Band Compilation. Hope you enjoy it.

Side One

1. “She’s The One” (from The Patty Patty Sound EP, 1998)

I’ll put in as simple as this, ‘She’s the One is the sweetest, most smile inducing and best song the Beta Band ever made. After all this is a simple song, that chant (a common theme, you will find) “She’s the One for Me” which gains more power with each repetition, that takes your focus so much that the climax almost burst out of nowhere. A brilliant way to spend eight and a half minutes.

2. “Round The Bend” (from The Beta Band, 1999)

‘Round the Bend’ is the Beta Bands funniest and saddest moment. It’s also one of the few times in which the lyrical genius of Steve Mason out shines the music. It’s a tale of shit night out and Mason is very specific in the lyrics, his simple thoughts of going out drinking alongside fantasy’s about pyramids blend brilliantly.

3. “Dogs Got A Bone” (from Champion Versions EP, 1997)

This song shows that despite all the ideas and innovation, the Beta Band also made really simple sweet jams sound incredible. The song is basically an acoustic guitar, a harmonium and obviously a bit of beat boxing. It doesn’t have a chorus or even a proper verse and at just short of six minutes that is pretty magical.

4. “Al Sharp” (from Hot Shots II, 2001)

The best song off ‘Hot Shots II is also the best example of where different sounds gel together perfectly. I should have put this as track 2 on side one because it’s the perfect antidote to ‘She’s the One’. I love the way this song hypnotically weaves music around two devastating statements “You and I will never be fine” and “I never even tried to smile for you”. Crikey that’s harsh.

5. “Eclipse” (from Hot Shots II, 2001)

‘Eclipse’ closes ‘Hot Shots II’ and it feels like a big hug after an album of cold and bitter music. It is almost the complete opposite of every other track on the album, its long, it’s a bit silly and its really chilled out. Whereas the rest of ‘Hot Shots II’ is obsessed with death, this is an acoustic guitar torch songs that ends with what sounds suspiciously a prog rock jam. Don’t let that put you off Side Two please.

Side Two

6. “Squares” (from Hot Shots II, 2001)

‘Squares’ opens with an a capella moment and immediately you know that this is something different. The drums crack in like fireworks and barely form a beat until it blooms suddenly and its iconic ‘Daydream’ nods jumps in. Strangely both The Beta Band and I Monster both used the ‘Daydream’ song in the same year and the melodies are so similar that they get confused. But whilst the Beta Band version has depths in between the hooks that makes the song sound sinister and like a bad acid trip and as the song goes on you hear the shout of ‘Daydream’ turning more and more into a nightmare. But it is a wonderful piece of music.

7. “Dance O’er The Border” (from The Beta Band, 1999)

Perhaps an example of why so many people were pissed off with the first Beta Band album. On first listen this song is a mess – a repetitive percussion heavy jam and I think it always sounded like a B side to a dance 12” with added mumbling, Mason is ad-libbing. So why is it on the album?? Because 5 years later LCD Soundsystem did exactly the same thing and made me listen to this all over again and realise the genius of it.

8. “Needles In My Eyes” (from Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos, 1998)

‘Needles In My Eyes’ is a track that best describes a break up like no others, there is one line here “Last night I dropped my heart and I never want to see it again”. It leaves you numb and you feel the pain and it is almost a relief when you hear the next verse state that “Needles in my eyes won’t cripple me tonight”. Phew.

9. “Dry The Rain” (from Champion Versions EP, 1997)

For most people this is the best Beta Band song, but it isn’t you have that right at the beginning of this compilation. It was one hell of an impressive debut though. You will of course remember the chant “I will be your light” and the opening line “This is the definition of my life/Lying in bed in the sunlight/choking on the vitamin tablet” which is a lyric so Radiohead like that I surprised they didn’t actually write it. From that moment on I knew that this was a band I would love and in Steve Mason a singer I would worry about. Oh man, its such a good record.

10. “Pure For” (from Heroes To Zeroes, 2004)

“Pure For’ is the last song on the final Beta Band record so ideally it should close the imaginary compilation, right? This is just too sparse to do that, it’s mainly just a drumbeat , a few synth chirps and a guitar that has been recorded backwards – there is no grand conclusion apart from the chant of “I’m so glad you found me”. It is such a happy ending, you forget the limitations the band faced and you forget that its their last song and just let it engulf you.

mp3 : The Beta Band – She’s The One
mp3 : The Beta Band – Round The Bend
mp3 : The Beta Band – Dogs Got A Bone
mp3 : The Beta Band – Al Sharp
mp3 : The Beta Band – Eclipse
mp3 : The Beta Band – Squares
mp3 : The Beta Band – Dance O’er The Border
mp3 : The Beta Band – Needles In My Eyes
mp3 : The Beta Band – Dry The Rain
mp3 : The Beta Band – Pure For

Enjoy!!

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT..WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (24)

The Shoebox of Delights – #17 – Chosen by JC
Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos – The Beta Band

R-592740-1170029667.jpeg

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…..

JC adds…….

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.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #24 : THE BETA BAND

the beta band

The Beta Band (1996-2004) were an alternative rock group who received much critical acclaim and achieved cult status, but failed to make much of a commercial impact on the popular music scene. Their style was self-described as being folk hop, a blend of folk, rock, trip hop, and experimental jamming.

Their music has featured on numerous film and TV soundtracks.  The song Dry the Rain from their 1997 debut EP, Champion Versions, was possibly their most popular track and was famously featured in the  film, High Fidelity.

Their live performances were legendary, often ending with the whole band playing percussion. Their dancing and energy got the whole audience moving, often in the same style as their idols on stage.  It has been suggested, sometimes by the band themselves, that they were better live than recorded.

All I have in my possession is The Three EPs compilation that brings together 12 tracks released between 1997 and 1998 including the aforementioned Dry The Rain.  It’s an album that Q magazine back in 2000 placed at #74 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever while Pitchfork had it is high as #23 in its Top 100 Albums of the 1990s.

mp3 : The Beta Band – Dog’s Got A Bone

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Parts 16-20)

Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 at a time from the archives..

R-378313-1122815531

(16) Belle & Sebastian – Legal Man b/w : Judy Is A Dick Slap b/w Winter Wooskie : Jeepster CD Single (2000)

Read more about Belle & Sebastian here

R-716384-1235843709

(17) The Beta Band : Dry The Rain b/w I Know b/w B+A b/w Dog Got A Bone : Taken from Regal EP compilation (1998)

Read more about The Beta Band here

R-376585-1318364732

(18) Big Country – Fields Of Fire (alternative mix) b/w Fields of Fire b/w Angle Park : Phonogram 12″ (1983)

Read more about Big Country here

R-2908274-1326934329

(19) The Big Dish : Miss America b/w From The Mission Bell To The Deep Blue Sea b/w The Town Celebrity :East West 12″ (1990)

Read more about The Big Dish here

R-620041-1168673568

(20) Bis – Kandy Pop b/w Secret Vampires b/w Teen-C Power b/w Diska : Chemikal Underground 7″ (1996)

Read more about Bis here

Enjoy!!

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD PLACE…SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2006

I’m thinking that I’d like to get the new place looking a wee bit more like the old place before I get right back into the swing of things and so for the next few weeks I’m going to have fresh posts along with making use of use Pip’s brilliant suggestion to access an archiving service and pick and mix some of the old material in a chronological fashion.

TVV had just the single post in September 2006 and twenty five in October 2006 as I dipped my toe tentatively into the world of blogging.  These earliest posts  demonstrate what I was hoping to achieve, which was to bring to the attention of those interested some songs that were often unavailable elsewhere thanks to them being obscure b-sides or different mixes on 12″ vinyl.  The inspiration for starting something came from reading what other great people were doing (most of whom have since given up blogging for one reason or another) while the push came from Mrs Villain buying me a turntable that allowed vinyl to be ripped to mp3.  I think she sometimes regrets what she did as I now spend more time at the PC than I do with her…..

I’m a bit embarrassed at the quality of the early postings – I really was nervous about the whole thing and wondered if there were folk out there who were interested and it showed with a lack of conviction in the writing.  But I was happy when I realised that the mp3s were being downloaded  and even more thrilled when the comments began to appear.  Sad man that I was, I remember spending hours analysing every single hit made on TVV and being amazed that folk were reading it from PCs in America, mainland Europe, Japan, Australia, South Africa as well as the UK which made up the bulk of the traffic very early on.

Here’s who got covered in September/October 2006:-

29 September : James

1 October : Lloyd Cole

2 October : Hey! Elastica

3 October : A House/David Kitt

4 October : Julian Cope

5 October : The Triffids/Carter USM (part one of a series looking at covers)

7 October : The Jam

9 October : Albert Hammond Jr/Half Man Half Biscuit/The Beta Band

10 October : Billy Bragg/Arab Strap

11 October : The Pale Fountains

12 October : Jonathan Richman

14 October : Poppy Factory

15 – 21 October “New Order Week”

22 October : James/Edwyn Collins

23 October : The Young Knives/The Grates/The View (first ever gig review!)

24 October : The Bible

25 October : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

26 October : Lloyd Cole (gig review)

26 October : AKA The Fox (first plug for a new band….it was for a workmate!)

31 October : Happy 43rd Birthday to Johnny Marr (first mention of The Smiths!)

I thought some of you might be interested in the post from 9 October :-

LIFE SOMETIMES IMITATES ART YOU KNOW

6a00d8345160c569e2013487bde53c970c-500wi

I’ve never been stopped and surveyed on my favourite ever movie scene. If I was, there’s every chance I’d go for something from ‘High Fidelity’You know the one…when Rob (played by John Cusick) insists he can sell a certain number of copies of a Beta Band EP when it gets played in the shop.

Well……….earlier today I was in Fopp in Glasgow city centre, idly passing away a spare 30 minutes. I was enjoying the sounds coming out of the speakers, but hadn’t a clue who it was. I was determined not to fall into the trap of asking the bloke behind the counter – I’m terrified I’m going to be a victim of some spectacular piss-take by someone who is lucky enough to have a job in a good record shop.

As it is, Fopp is one of those stores that displays what is being played at any point in time – so I didn’t have to ask. And it turned out, much to my surprise, to be ‘Yours To Keep’, the debut LP of Albert Hammond Jr that was released just today. And I bought it. And I don’t care if me doing so resulted in Fopp’s equivalent of Rob being smug with his colleagues…..

Why was I surprised?

For one, it sounds nothing like The Strokes.

For two, Albert has a voice that can hold a tune (I don’t think he supplies backing vocals when his band play live).

For three, it is consistently very good – unlike his band’s last two offerings.

And for four – there’s whistling on one of the songs!

I’ve now played the album right the way through a couple of times at home, and it is every bit as enjoyable as it was in the shop a few hours ago.

mp3 : Albert Hammond Jr – Hard To Live In The City

Albert’s old man – who unsurprisingly is Albert Hammond Snr – is a famous musician and singer/songwriter in his own right (but you all probably knew that already). However, he even pre-dates an old codger like me, and I can’t post any of his tunes for your enjoyment.But I can offer this from 1986 –

mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Albert Hammond Bootleg

As first brought to the attention of the world on ‘The Trumpton Riots EP’

Oh and for the hell of it, the superb song that was in the scene in High Fidelity-

mp3 : The Beta Band – Dry The Rain

————–ends—————————

I’ll keep plugging away at re-building the links etc over the coming days. Before you know it, TVV will be but a memory and T(n)VV the place to hang out!

Being serious for a moment…..yesterday was a sore one.  I was fighting back the tears at times thinking of what had been lost.  But I feel a lot better as I can find much of the old material and will find ways of bringing back to its new rightful home.

It was also hugely uplifting to see so many messages of support in the comments section and at many other blogs – with a particular word of thanks to Drew at Across The Kitchen Table Thanks folks for all your kind words  and encouragement.

PS : If by chance you’d like to see a re-post on any of the above mentioned artists or bands from Sep/Oct 2006…(are there any Poppy Factory fans out there?)….. just leave a comment or drop me a line…..

Enjoy!! (I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll be using a new sign off stolen from Dirk at Sexy Loser…….)