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Wednesday, March 24, 2004  
The Beta Band - "Assessment"
Way to change direction. Or is it? It’s been three years since Hot Shots II; who’s to say there hasn’t been a slow evolution in sound since then, a series of trends rather than a definite fulcrum leading them here?

Hot Shots II, of course, is the album they made to apologise for their eponymous debut, which reneged on the promise of those infamous, glorious early EPs by being largely shit. Lazy journalists did the “wow, these guys have got so many crazy ideas; the must be on drugs” routine and were met with spite from Steve Mason. Rightly so: how would you like to have your honest day’s work viewed as the ramblings of a stoned idiot? If you work fucking hard you want the credit you deserve.

So after the futurist r&b rock of HSII (an album they wanted The Neptunes to produce, and which did that psychedelic technologically friendly wide-eyed wonder thing much better than Yoshimi could even dream of), they’ve gone post-punk, sort of. Thump-thump-thump-snap go the drums, dead metronome style, and some jaggedy guitar motif gets reverbed across the speakers. Mason, as ever, sounds a million miles away, stretches harmonies with himself into interstellar space at the end of each line. “Sometimes / I feel / [something] / [something]” and even though the words are indecipherable the yearning is tangible. Post-punk? Spacey? Yearning? Noise? Is this Disco Inferno? No. It’s The Stone Roses, sort of. Or The Beta Band. “From the sea / to the beach / to the land…” On three minutes there’s a drum roll that Manitoba nicked before its conception, some more guitar, some space noise, the tune moves to a thousand miles away from the microphone, and then… the trumpets! Oh my! Chaotic fanfares. Brilliant? Brilliant. From zeroes to heroes. Again.


3/24/2004 10:43:00 am


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005