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The Beta Band: Heroes to Zeros

The Beta Band: Heroes to Zeros

Release Date:2004

By Tom Breihan | Posted 6/9/2004

You don't see too many pictures of the Beta Band--not because the Scottish group's four members are particularly ugly, though they aren't winning any beauty contests. It's simply more fun to imagine them as magical dwarves in Ecko spacesuits.

Since releasing three amazing EPs in 1999, the Beta Band has combined its glittering psychedelic folk rock with, among other things, impenetrably hazy dub, mechanical R&B, and soaring space rock. So it's a shock that the group's latest, Heroes to Zeros, is so placid. With little genre fuckery, no songs exceeding five minutes, and almost no freewheeling irreverence, Heroes lacks everything that set the group apart in the first place. It's like the Beta Band has resigned itself to becoming an indie-rock band, nothing more and nothing less.

Fortunately, the Beta Band is a pretty great indie-rock band. Most of its songs are nothing spectacular, but they come outfitted with a stunning array of production tricks, shifting textures, and layered sounds. The melancholy strings and plinking keyboards of "Troubles" turn an unremarkable ballad into something more gripping, and the roiling drums and ecstatic backing vocals turn "Out-Side" into a weirdly glorious anthem. Stephen Mason's stoned, wistful vocals sound as warm and inviting as ever, and he occasionally gets to sink his teeth into a great melody, as on the hungover mini-epic "Simple." The searing hooks and delirious playfulness of the Band's previous work may be absent, but Heroes and Zeros is great background music.

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