They might have been around for a while but Mark Robertson finds that with THE BETA BAND, persisting with being perverse has always paid off.
t's fair to say that the Beta Band have always been
pretty weird. They have successfully walked a
tightrope between indulgent musical insanity and sartorial pop elegance for many years now.
The Streets. the Mars Volta. the lilaming Lips and the Super Furry Animals are all groups who know how to get suitably ‘out there' in their music. More importantly perhaps. they also know how to come right back again with style. class and at least some dignity intact. This is something the Beta Band have come near to perfecting on their third long player. Homes In Zt’rm's'.
Despite the crappy. self-depreciating name (they'ye never been one for album titles) Homes to Xr'mr's‘ brings together much of what they have been battling with mitsically over the last eight or so years in one confident chunk. Sitting in an lidinhurgh cafe with the quartet chowing down on bacon butties and milkshakes. they seem at relatiye ease to dissect their latest work. an indication of its quality maybe. given their own highly critical approach.
‘lt was certainly more enjoyable to make than any other record. mainly because there was no constraint on time.’ says Richard (ireentree. ‘We tend to panic under pressure. Which you‘ll know if you‘re familiar with otn‘ back catalogue..
The panic (ireentree refers to is their l‘)‘)‘) eponymous debut. which they declared 'a fucking mess‘ on its release. mainly due to its hurried completion. While nowhere near as bad as they made out. it suffered from haying so much to live up to. The three lil’s preceding it were a quite brilliant battery of scattergun
work which swung happily between genius and disaster
on an almost moment to moment basis and set out the band‘s intentions as unpredictable sonic visionaries. 2()()l’s Hot Shots II was a more focussed. deliberate collection. In which the band gave in to their inlluences.
‘With the last record we did have an agenda of
sorts.‘ says John McLean. ‘We wanted to capture some of the things we love about hip hop on it. With this one it was tojust make the best record we possibly could.’
‘WE TEND T0 PANIC UNDER PRESSURE'
And done that they have. The heart of Heroes to Zl’l‘m’x is still pure pop with Steve Mason‘s plaintive but sweet melodies and monotones. but it remains filtered through their own unique mesh of sonic idealism. The result is a euphoric blend of the familiar and unfamiliar.
Despite their deadly serious approach. it is easy to see the Beta Band are a bunch of romantics at heart. From ‘She's the ()ne‘ on IWS’s The Party Parry Sound to the closer on the new album ‘l’ure For". their career is littered with missiyes from the heart.
‘l‘d say there are a lot of love songs on this record.’ says (ireentree. ‘But there are also points of sadness and anger. We would never make an album that didn’t express all the emotions we experience. That‘s just fake.‘
Despite being label mates with Robbie. Kylie and (ieri. they retain complete control over both the aural and the visual elements of the hand.
‘We are control freaks. yes. but we don‘t take [being called] that as an insult.. admits (ireentree. ‘I couldn't imagine not being. its too important not to be.’
This control has meant they have also been able to maintain a level of mystique about themselves. They show up in promo photos dressed in tin foil on boating ponds or enjoying domesticated space adventures. For their newest campaign they have taken a darker turn. with them pictured in ninja assassin suits in sketchy covert operations.
‘We feel like there are sinister forces at work in the world.‘ says Steve Mason. ‘So it‘s kind of. why not become one of those and hopefully try and intimidate those people who are being sinister. We'll freak out the eyil bastards. ltnagine being a terrorist . . . .' he trails off shaking his head but the idea is there and it makes sense. in a weird way.
Which pretty much sums the Beta Band up. There is more than meets the eye and it all works . . . in a weird way.
Barrowland, Glasgow, Mon 3 May.
All the mess/n ’, fess/n’ and radio seSSIons in the wonderful world of mUSIC
The Ordinary Boys
THE COMPLETED LINE UP FOR this year’s T in the Park has been announced. Goldie Looking Chain and Big Brovaz complete the main stage line- ups while the Ordinary Boys (pictured), Electric Six, Spearhead, the Shins, Alfie, Amy Winehouse, British Sea Power, Alex Parks, Funeral for a Friend and James’ Tim Booth are among the acts filling out the NME Stage and King Tut’s Tent. The X Tent makes a welcome return with the excellent Bees headlining alongside the Stands, Ben Kweller, Sons & Daughters, Hope of the States, Thirteen Senses, Martina Topley-Bird, Delays and Kasabian. Look out for our full T in the Park preview coverage and some special treats during June and July. Tickets are still available, see www.tinthepark.com UNBEKNOWNST TO MANY.
there is a wealth of archive recordings made for Radio Clyde and Radio Forth over the last 25 years which is collecting dust in their archives . . . until now. River Records has been set up with the intention of releasing this excellent material, which includes Slllfi from everyone from Elvis Costello and U2 to the Assooates and Thin Lizzy recorded at the Apollo. Nightmoves. the Mayfair and other venues now left to the annuls of history. Some of the first releases cut this month include 70s rock legends Nazareth. Rab Noakes and folk duo Gallagher 8. Lyle. With many more planned for the coming months. Visit wwwriverecordscom for more.
AS IF ONE PHENOMENAL young conductor wasn’t enough, the RSNO’s principal guest conductor, Garry Walker, is now joined by Edinburgh University graduate James Lowe as associate conductor. Lowe first appears with the orchestra on tour in Stirling and Dunfermline. For 2004/05, the orchestra has just announced 76 concerts across seven Scottish towns and cities. Find out more at www.rsno.org.uk
.‘tl' At)! U Mttﬁ. YOU-1 THE LIST 47