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October 6, 2004

{     The Beta Band - Heroes to Zeros     }    

The Beta Band is dead. As bandmember Richard Greentree so eloquently put it- "The Beta Band apple has over-ripened and become riddled with maggots, it must fall from the tree and let its seeds return to ground." While there are certainly some over-ripe moments on Heroes to Zeros, the album is also full of the strange energy that has always made the band so compelling. Some of my favorite tracks call to mind the electro-funk of their 2001 release, Hot Shots II, only with a more organic feel- due in large part to their use of live instrumentation supplementing the steady diet of programmed loops and beats. The Beta Band has always been known as great background music. Heroes to Zeros flips that script with some real "rock" moments. The band's vocals have taken a turn for the relevant as well, avoiding the vague spaciness of previous material in favor of a more up-front presentation. Whereas guitarist/vocalist Steve Mason had previously allowed his delivery to blend and meld into the song structure, with Heroes we see it emerging to the forefront. This directness allows the wry sense of humor and overarching themes of the lyrics to be much better appreciated. Heroes to Zeroes is certainly their most accessible effort yet, though the attempt to shake off the stoner/hippie/folk association that have haunted the band's public image are foiled in part by the "jammy" feel of some of the tracks. Perhaps it's simply a by-product of so much live brass instrumentation, and it's certainly more "jazz-rock" than it is "jam-rock", but there's still something a bit daft going on. I suppose that's always going to be a risk that's run by bands who choose to experiment and evolve, and I won't begrudge The Beta Band that indulgence, especially post-mortem. There are supposedly some DVD releases in the offing, and hopefully Astralwerks will spare us the obligatory "Greatest Hits" treatment and fork over a nice chunky b-side album instead. (There's reportedly a lot of unused material floating around out there from the Heroes sessions.) All four of the fellows are planning to continue recording, playing and working with music, just separately and with each to their own. Perhaps we'll soon taste the fruit born of the seeds planted with this break-up: It may even taste sweeter than that which came before it.

     » Astralwerks Beta Band page

By Adam in Music

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