The Best Of - The Beta Band

It was around this time last year that the Beta Band announced to the nation that they were to split up after a farewell tour. I was frankly shocked, but have now come to terms that this creative force are no more. A fitting farewell is this two disc compilation, one containing the best of their studio recordings while the second CD is a live recording of their performance at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

Selecting the finest cuts of three albums plus the now legendary 3 EP collection is no easy task, but these sixteen tracks compiled are testament to the bands skill as experimentation. "She's The Tone" is an eight minute plus musical odyssey. The strange, unusual sounds these Scots make is infectious, alarming but bordering on genius. Steve Mason's soulful, laid-back vocal is so seductively soothing. His vocals have been specially multi-tracked to provide a one man chorus. Psychedelic moods prevail with an expansive song structure, loose, free styling, risk taking adventures with pinky and perky style vocals, Doors style organ interludes and steel drums. Original, it sure is. "To You Alone" is more dance orientated with a trippy edge of disorientation with a spot of chanting with space age synths and absurd lyrics which works so well in the world they inhabit. "Assessment" was one of the singles taken from their final album "Heroes To Zeros" which was a lot rockier "the guitars have an almost U2 epic feel) from their usual stoner type work outs. The chorus is hypnotically catchy making it both radio friendly and edgy and is in my opinion their finest single of their career.

Not mentioned enough in my opinion is what a brilliant live band the Beta Band were. They used home made videos as a backdrop to their music, which these four men lived for, moving around the stage playing each others instruments and entertaining the fans in their own inimitable style. Obviously a live album isn't quite the same as experiencing them in the flesh (so to speak), but it's still worth investigation as it captures the wit and Caledonian charm of the Beta Band.

"Inner Meet Me" shows a good tight band, well rehearsed who just love to improvise. The usual concoction of synths, guitar and percussion raises the bar even higher with a funky bass line which as the crowd cheering with genuine enthusiasm. "Easy" is another funky little number, with a rap not unlike a less grump Lou Reed. I simply adore the 70s style Hammond Organ riffs reminding me of the theme from Starsky and Hutch. The subtle use of harmonica on this track is typical of the band, excelling in the art of leftfield songwriting. Broke" can quite rightly be classed as a live favourite. It begins very quietly in a manner best described as beguiling, but the band up the ante with turbo charging techno and bangin' drum'n'bass. Steve's effortless guitar playing is hauntingly prolific while he reminisces "You won't cry for me" in a tone which conveys her resignation to love. The build up of percussion and the cool funk rhythms are reminiscent of early Stone Roses and this track ends with an almighty jamming session.

Since The Beta Band disbanded (excuse me while I wipe away a tear) Steve Mason has wasted no time in forming his new band King Biscuit TIme. His three ex-band mates have been relatively quiet but im sure they'll return soon individually in spectacular form

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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