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THE BETA BAND - Wolverhampton Wulfrun - 2001   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Wednesday, 15 September 2004
Aah, 1971. Prog Rock, keyboards, swirly lightshows. Welcome to the past...

The keyboard player is on stage, his shoulder length unkempt hair ruffled around as he charts a previously uncharted sonic territory, lost in the oblivious trance. The guitarist and bassist continue to experiment, and the drummer, he keeps it all together. In 20 years time, People might look at that band and say "I saw them before they got huge", much like they did when they saw Pink Floyd in the early 70's before they wrote any proper songs. Unfortunately, this is exactly where the Beta Band might find themselves.

Normally , when Nicky Wire disses a band, it's a not recommendation; he had a go at Chumbawumba for their soapbox politics, yet Chumbawumba remain more politically astute and less reactionary now that the Manics are: and the crass, lowest common denominator "Tubthumping" aside, they remain a pretty good band. Then Nicky Wire dissed the Beta Band, when the NME needed someone new to proclaim as the new second coming of indie. I just thought Nicky Wire was giving good soundbite and making column inches by being reactionary; but he might have had a point.

My first real exposure to the Beta Band was"Dry the Rain": the scene in high Fidelity where John Cusack plays it and says "Im gonna sell five copies of this record". So much so, it inspired me to go and buy 3 EP's, which I liked. Alas to say, I think I'll stick with that CD rather than any other's. Without a support band, the band DJ for themselves, with a backprojection of various weird images and a collage of sound beats. Then they come onstage, adding one instrument at a time for a soundmix jam, before starting the set proper. The drummer looks like Reni (obligatory funky drummer hat), the guitarist is dressed like one of santa's elves crossed with a magic carpet, and the band overall resemble refugees from the bad sci-fi film Capricorn One. There's one thing having a visual image; its another looking this stupid. It doesn't do them any favours.

The songs change: part Sebadoh-esque, part twinkly, overlaid with samples from John Barry film scores ("The Black Hole", specifically);Songs like "Needle in my eye" , and "Dr Baker" from 3 Ep's surface, as do new unfamiliar B-Sides. The band is hampered by an abysmal sound mix: the bass is muffled and the vocals indistinguishable; but moments of beauty and melody come shining out. Then, within 15 seconds, we're plunged back into a cacophonic mix of art-rock noise, seemingly never to return from the indulgent experimentalism. But nonetheless, the band just project, well, nothing from the stage, with all the charisma of a wallhanging. For all the promise shown, we're but 5 seconds away from a howl of experimentalism - the destruction of beauty in the name of art.Perhaps the way to look upon this: the Beta band, for all the plaudits thrown at them, quite simply do not deserve it.

What I see is nothing more than a retread of some aging 70's spacerockers, stuck in a timewarp when Hawkwind could play Earls Court; the only way this band would deserve any of the press they receive, deserve the title of being cutting edge, is if this was 1971, not some 30 years later. But its not just retro ; like Pink Floyd 35 years ago, the experimentalism and the songwriting potential go hand in hand; at one point creating beautiful melodies, only to be drowned out with the abstract quest for new and unlistenable noises. They could go one of two ways: Make a defining record of a generation , Like "Dark Side of the Moon" was, or instead disappear up their own arse-tistic indulgences with a "Tales of Topographic Oceans". The choice is theirs, and I think the choice they'll take is the latter, all while claiming "no sellout".

I've never seen the Beta Band before; there again, I've never walked out of a gig before either. Its was that bad. The Beta Band that did not move me, did not entertain me, did nothing for me but bore me shitless. I came in here with an open mind, and the Beta Band tonight have been weighed, measured, and found wanting. If I'd known they were this band, I would have stayed at home with that very same old Pink Floyd bootleg from '71; at least I wouldn't have had to pay bar prices for fizzy water that way. Either way, this isn't the future of music : this is the past. They've got a great future behind them ; and its called "prog rock"

Avoid. I wouldn't cross my living room to see them again. Why should You?

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