The first time I heard The Three EP's by the Beta Band, I was hooked. It was like that scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack states that he will sell five copies of that very album, then puts the CD in the store stereo system and gets everyone in the store bobbing their heads along with it and smiling. When I saw that scene on the big screen, I laughed out loud, mainly because I thought it was just about the perfect song for such a moment, and partially because it felt so thrown into the movie for the heck of it. Personally, I've told tons of people about that very disc and nearly everyone comes back with the same reaction, and that's that minus the one long song in the middle ("Monolith"), they love it.
And even though their Self-Titled release was a bit more strange and wacky (and even though the group pretty much dismissed it themselves upon its release), it grew on me as well and became an album that I still listen to on a fairly regular basis. After that release, I wondered just what in the heck that the group would do next. There were rumours of 2 different 20-minute long tracks that never really came to fruition, and band member Steve Mason released the delightfully good No Style EP under the King Biscuit moniker. About a year ago, the group dropped 2 tracks called "To You Alone" and "Sequensizer," and although they were fairly catchy, I didn't feel like they broke any new ground for the group.
While their new disc Hot Shots 2 doesn't really break a whole lot of new ground for them musically, it is a release that finds them at their most cohesive. The entire disc flows quite nicely and you can sing along with just about every track, and there are some completely standout moments as well. Those hoping for ten-minute epic freakout tracks by the group may find themselves slightly dissappointed, but just about everyone else who has heard the band should find something really enjoyable within.
One of the things that struck me upon first listen of the album and has stuck with me really ever since is that the first half of the album seems very tailored. That is to say, all the songs are very short and radio-friendly and have just enough hooks that I could see the group getting some crossover appeal if "Squares" or "Al Sharp" or "Human Being" catch on. As the first three tracks on the disc, they hit one after the other and all are sing-along fun, but basically feel like condensed versions of tracks that the group has already done. They're decent songs, but not the best releases on the disc. About halfway through the disc, though, is where things change up a fair amount and get a lot more exciting. "Broke" starts out fairly normally with some quiet vocals and electronic effects, but soon breaks into a totally different feel, dropping a chunky beat and some chimes behind the harmonized vocals.
The album fortunately just ends up getting better and better as it keeps going on. "Alleged" again starts out the group with an almost lullaby sound before kicking some thick beats while "Eclipse" finds the group in their best trippy-mode. It's the album closer bonus track of "Won," though, (the b-side of the UK single release of "Squares") that's probably my favorite track on the entire disc. Riffing on the classic Harry Nilsson track "One," the bi-polar track swings between an excellent rap track (with Sean Revron on guest vocals) and a Beta Band percussive romp. After it's all said and done, the four wackos in the group have created another fairly enjoyable release. It's not nearly the aural clusterfuck that their Self-Titled release was, but instead the group shows that their goofy sides can peacefully coexist with their harmonious, pop-song writing ones.