BETA BAND ALPHA
Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:7 November 2020
The transition from novel to film involves many changes. Some enhance, others distract; often the response depends on what you did first… read the book or watched the film.
The novel High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, was first published in 1995.
The movie, starring John Cusack and directed by Stephen Frears, was released in 2000.
In between, Edinburgh combo The Beta Band put out three EPs (12” vinyl, CD, cassette) and a compact disc compiling those releases into a seventy-eight minute album called—with admirable accuracy but lamentable misuse of an apostrophe—The Three E.P.’s.
The E.P.’s album came out in 1999, just in time for it to feature in a neat little scene from the film version of High Fidelity.
INT Championship Vinyl, A RECORD SHOP. WEEKEND; THE SHOP IS BUSY
Rob: [whispers conspiratorially to Dick] I will now sell five copies of The Three E.P.’s by The Beta Band.
Dick: [whispering back] Do it.
[Rob puts on CD. The first track, “Dry the rain”, plays. Patrons begin to gently groove]
Customer: Who is that?
Rob: The Beta Band
Customer: It’s good.
Rob: I know.
If you are familiar with The Three E.P.’s, you’ll know that the low-key endorsement in the above dialogue matches The Beta Band’s music perfectly. The vocals present hummable melodies (or at least melodic fragments) with an understated detachment, a kind of trippy post-rock Britpop.
Back to opener “Dry the rain”. The combination of acoustic guitar and processed rhythm is beguiling; as you nod your head to the groove you don’t notice that the song is building to a Radiohead-style climax so enthralling you might find you are holding your breath. Just as well, then, that the mood shifts markedly to the down-beat bass-driven thrumming of “I know”, replete with loops and beeps and some whispered vocals. If you thought French electronica duo Air were fun but bland, this will make you smile. A lot.
“She’s the one” is another killer song, while this long-term krautrock fan loved the hints of Cluster in pieces like “Inner meet me” and the experimentation of tracks like “Push it out” and “Dr Baker”. Really, only the fifteen minute experimental collage “Monolith” drags (unless you are a fan of the first Faust album. Then you’ll dig it, big time).
Ready for some quirky aural adventure? Take a trip with this under-appreciated band either with this collection or one of their three excellent albums… Hot Shots II, for example. Already on board with The Beta Band but don’t own the ridiculously rare original 12” editions? Then the re-issue of The Three E.P.’s on vinyl is something to get excited about. In an understated way, of course.
© Bruce Jenkins 2020