After their debut release The Three EPs earlier this year, the Beta Band fast became a group that I wanted to keep my eyes on. As a group, they genre-bent until their music spilled into tons of different categories with it's mutant jam-band style. They showed that they weren't afraid to throw anything into the mix and it made for an excellent album of very listenable, wacky tracks from the fun group. When I found out their debut proper was going to come out only a couple months later, I was stoked.
Then, a really strange thing happened. As soon as the disc had come out (and before I had a chance to pick it up), the band proclaimed in an article at NME that the album was crap. They were deriding their own work and the trend seemed to continue in several different reviews that I read for it. I decided to wait awhile on it, but reminded myself to pick it up at some point. The point finally came awhile back, and I must say that although I don't think it's by any means bad, I don't enjoy it nearly as much as I do their first disc.
The disc starts off on a definite highlight with the completely corny "Beta Band Rap." Instead of really rapping, though, the song starts out as more of a bad-barbershop quartet with little chimes and whistles in the background before morphing into something that sounds a little more hip-hop. All the while, though, it's easy to hear that tongue is firmly planted in cheek. Yet again, though, the track changes up styles again into a weird sort of pseudo-elvis impersonation. Even with three big changes over the course of less than 5 minutes, the track works in it's novelty. The very next track "It's Not Too Beautiful" is the first epic track of the album, clocking in at well over 8 minutes long. The track is also kind of bi-polar in that it's split almost down the middle between a funky little bubbly jamming track and a majestic orchestral one. The vocals manage to stay the same throughout, but the backing sounds vary wildly. Once again, though, they manage to make it all work.
On their shortest track to date, "Simple Boy" is almost exactly as the title would suggest. Stripped down to vocals, a plain drum machine and a couple bass plucks, the track really doesn't go much of anywhere. At least it's short. They come back solid again on the very next track "Round The Bend." It's a jaunty little track with lyrics that sound like they were improvised on the spot, but if you've listened to the group before, you'll realize it's part of their charm.
Unfortunately, the album is even more hit-and-miss for the rest of the way out. "Dance O'er The Border" is another track in which a drum machine is enlisted and it just doesn't seem to work with the other instrumentation they've picked for the track. "Broken Up A Ding-Dong" (which is probably the best-named track on the disc) is a winner with it's hand-clapping and catchy vocals, but "Number 15" slows things down again and the group doesn't show much invention. "Smiling" is really the nice last gleam of real inventive-ness on the album with it's flippant beat and distorted, almost-rapped multi-part vocals. The final two tracks "The Hard One" and "The Cow's Wrong" simply noodle too much without any direction. Even the drawn-out "Monolith" off their last album seemed to work better.
Still, I'd be lying if I said there still wasn't a lot to like about the disc. Even though there are a couple stumbles, the group is still definitely one to watch in terms of their output. Throwing normal song structures to the wind most of the time, they're an inventive group that are trying to take British music in different directions than what people are used to. There must be something in their water.