The long-awaited follow up to 2001's 'Hot Shots II' kicks off in promising style with the single, 'Assessment.' As a statement of intent, they don't come any bolder than this; a swirling, driving beast of a tune, it seems to combine all the previous elements of the Beta boys' career. This makes it the obvious choice for a single, but it is by no means the standout track. All the songs on this album are imbued with something which shows why the Beta Band are such an essential part of the contemporary British music scene. Whilst I am unsure as to precisely what that 'something' is, it definitely contains an aura of originality that has often been copied, but which shall always lack the resonance of the genuine article.
'Space', the second track picks up gamely where 'Assessment' left off with swaggering bass/drum interaction that betrays the hip hop/dub influence the Beta Band have internalised and yet made entirely their own. 'Lion Thief', has been an early fan favourite, harking back to the Three EP's era with it's folk inflected intro before progressing to a groove centred piece utilising the same riff. This is also an excellent example of the way the whole album works, described by Beta Band frontman Steve Mason as like 'the Milky Way in a tea cup.' This is an album that initially feels densely layered, with whole new spaces opening up open repeated listening. However, if one really pays attention, it becomes apparent that the songs seem to wax and wane, building euphorically to a swell only to plunge the listener into a brief space where Steve Mason's voice is given full reign to pervade your entire being. This is no more obvious than in the sprawling funk of 'Easy', though Richard Greentree takes on vocal duty here.
'Out-Side' raises the album back to exultant heights after a reflective break, only for 'Space Beatle' to combine downbeat verses with transcendent choruses. 'Rhododendron' sounds like 'Pet Sounds' for today, showcasing a beautiful organ sound coupled with synth melody and excellent percussion. Any retro vibe is rapidly dismantled by the futuristic indie dub groove of 'Liquid Bird', whose hard-edged sound is in turn countered by 'Simple.' The heart-rending introduction melds effortlessly with the gargantuan groove that follows it, echoing the Smiths in the way you want to dance and cry at the same time.
This album works superbly as a whole, and goes a further step to fulfilling the potential that it has long been acknowledged is possessed by this band. The closing track, 'Pure For', offers the listener a resolution in the mantra of "I'm so glad you found me," nicely rounding off the emotional journey of the album. 'Heroes to Zeros' is an album tailored neatly to fit the crowd who find themselves alienated from the emotionally shallow music scene of today, and I hope it brings the Beta Band the success that has long eluded them.
The long-awaited follow up to 2001's 'Hot Shots II' kicks off in promisingstyle with the single, 'Assessment.' As a statement of intent, they don'tcome any bolder than this; a swirling, driving beast of a tune, it seemsto combine all the previous elements of the Beta boys' career. This makesit the obvious choice for a single, but it is by no means the standouttrack. All the songs on this album are imbued with something which showswhy the Beta Band are such an essential part of the contemporary Britishmusic scene. Whilst I am unsure as to precisely what that 'something' is,it definitely contains an aura of originality that has often been copied,but which shall always lack the resonance of the genuine article.
‘Space’, the second track picks up gamely where ‘Assessment’ left off withswaggering bass/drum interaction that betrays the hip hop/dub influencethe Beta Band have internalised and yet made entirely their own. ‘LionThief’, has been an early fan favourite, harking back to the Three EP’sera with it’s folk inflected intro before progressing to a groove centredpiece utilising the same riff. This is also an excellent example of theway the whole album works, described by Beta Band frontman Steve Mason aslike ‘the Milky Way in a tea cup.’ This is an album that initially feelsdensely layered, with whole new spaces opening up open repeated listening.However, if one really pays attention, it becomes apparent that the songsseem to wax and wane, building euphorically to a swell only to plunge thelistener into a brief space where Steve Mason’s voice is given full reignto pervade your entire being. This is no more obvious than in thesprawling funk of ‘Easy’, though Richard Greentree takes on vocal dutyhere.
‘Out-Side’ raises the album back to exultant heights after a reflectivebreak, only for ‘Space Beatle’ to combine downbeat verses withtranscendent choruses. ‘Rhododendron’ sounds like ‘Pet Sounds’ for today,showcasing a beautiful organ sound coupled with synth melody and excellentpercussion. Any retro vibe is rapidly dismantled by the futuristic indiedub groove of ‘Liquid Bird’, whose hard-edged sound is in turn counteredby ‘Simple.’ The heart-rending introduction melds effortlessly with thegargantuan groove that follows it, echoing the Smiths in the way you wantto dance and cry at the same time.
This album works superbly as a whole, and goes a further step tofulfilling the potential that it has long been acknowledged is possessedby this band. The closing track, ‘Pure For’, offers the listener aresolution in the mantra of “I’m so glad you found me,” nicely roundingoff the emotional journey of the album. ‘Heroes to Zeros’ is an albumtailored neatly to fit the crowd who find themselves alienated from theemotionally shallow music scene of today, and I hope it brings the BetaBand the success that has long eluded them.
on 7 February 2005
I am absolutely convinced that The Beta Band are the new Pixies. If that's the case, this is their Trompe le Monde. A different style, last one they've ever done, and whilst it's an extremely good album, for them it's quite a poor achievement considering their past recordings.
Yet what you get is well worth your money, and pushes "conventional" music to its limits. This is the Beta Band after all. I don't know what their aim was in the making of this album, but they have managed to produce their most accessible collection of songs. Perhaps they were trying to win over a new audience, or go mainstream? Unfortanately, it failed, and we'll never get to see The Beta Band on TOTP.
But we will always have the songs. Several standout here, such as the U2 esque Assessment, the absolute classic Out-side, the inspired Space and the gentle interlude of Rhododendron.
Recommended as an album but not as a Beta Band album. Simply not as good as their others. But then, what is?
on 30 March 2008
It really is tragic that such a talented band with such obvious commercial appeal never achieved the success they deserved (and yet so many generic rock bands of far lesser talent and creativity are reaping dividends merely as a result of the corporate promotional machine). No lesser luminaries than Radiohead and Oasis declared The Beta Band a major new talent, but by the time the tellingly titled `Heroes to Zeros' was released, this Edinburgh band probably knew that this would be their swansong. Soon afterwards their justified frustration led to their dissolution, with singer Stephen Mason going on to develop his excellent King Biscuit Time project. Perhaps their creative perfectionism was part of the problem-they are even renowned for criticising their debut album before its release. But then again they had pioneered an incredible pastiche sound that seamlessly merged influences as disparate as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Madchester, Grunge, Hip Hop and god knows what else. But rather than resulting in a clumsy hybridity, it worked to produce a sound that is that of The Beta Band and no one else. This album has it all- songwriting, composition, musicianship, production- every aspect a triumph. So why have I only just discovered The Beta Band? Well I guess then, that they need more people singing their praises, and even if they are defunct, ensuring they receive the accolades they are due. Can a hero be super without adulation? The comic characters on the cover of this album deserve it, so give it to them!
on 28 April 2004
The Beta Band burst onto the scene and into the 'indie-kid' consciousnessmany moons ago with the phenomenomal '3 EPs', and have hardly looked backsince. OK, so the 'Beta Band' album was a bit of a hotch-potch, but theyhave never been anything less than fresh, exciting and, to theircommercial and chart expense, experimental.
'Hot Shots II' was a return to form, but still lacked the immediacy of the'3 EPs'. Repeated listenings brought out the complex beauty or humour inmany of the songs, but it was two of the 'catchier' numbers; 'Smiling' and'Round the Bend' that really stood out.
'Heroes to Zeroes' is the first collection of tunes the Betas havereleased that actually works as an album. Whilst still not quite reachingthe dizzy heights of the '3 EPs' on a consistent basis (has anyone everreleased an album that does?), it's guitar heavy songs and more melodicmoments combine well to act as a very decent introduction to what the BetaBand are all about - it's the music, stupid!
They seem to be having a great laugh along the way too. Ignoring theliteral when the fantastical will do, and happily referencing the mostbanal personal experiences as well as the most important and frustratingissues of the day (and everything in between), they are at their mostintriguing when singing about...love.
As with many Beta Band records, several of the tunes on 'Heroes to Zeroes'are really just tortured love songs, full of longing and often regret,such as 'Wonderful' and 'Simple', and the album is all the more powerfulfor their inclusion. 'Assessment' is the obvious single, but 'Liquid Bird'and 'Wonderful' may be the stand out tunes on this one.
Typically with Beta Band albums you need to own them for a while beforetheir true brilliance is revealed to you, by occassional repeatedlistening (it often helps if one is not altogether sober). From the firstfew listens 'Heroes' is already a tremendous piece of work. A year fromnow it may well be regarded as one of the greats. It'd definitely begetting my vote anyway.
'Heroes to Zeroes' is a superb album. Buy it today. It will make your lifebetter, and may even make you smile.
on 30 November 2004
Like many other fans of the Beta Band I did really like the 3-Eps and probably on balance their strongest individual songs feature there. However Heroes to Zeroes seems to gel together as a better overall album even though there may not be such a stand out track as "Dry the Rain". After a couple of reasonably dodgy albums my faith has been restored in them as a band with this release, and I am surprised it hasn't done better from a sales perspective. As a band they have always tried to be interesting and eclectic and this album certainly holds your attention.
on 17 April 2004
As a big fan of their previous work, Hot Shots II in particular (never tire of listening to that one!). I was looking forward to the new album with extremely high expectations. The Beta Band somehow always manage to offer up an infectious fresh melodic sound with all the musical elements of dub, rock, folk and hip hop mixed in to create something that bit different.
The album starts off strong with the thumping & very rock sounding, Assessment. With use of triumphant trumpets near the end give it that anthem like quality "dry the rain" had from the 3 eps.
Then track two "space", takes attention away from the guitars, and uses a more trippy sound with the drums giving the song a really uplifting feel. It's one of these sing along ones "lalalala". But it works well. As most of the album actually is.
Most of the songs have a stop start quality about them, with the catchy rhythms, sounds and vocals all coming together. Unlike their first actual album "The Beta Band" there seems to be a connection, has a sound that suggests it could work live. It's not so random. A good example of this is "lion thief". Wouldn't seem out of place on Hot Shots II
The highlight track for me however is "wonderful". Beautifully constructed, with "she's so wonderful" repeated delicately, then moving into the powerful drums and guitar, then going back to a slow beat you'd expect on a King Tubby album.
The album is one of these ones that’ll grow on you, I know I won't stop listening to it, and the more I do, the more it makes me smile and want to sing along. And that is what music should be about!
on 20 May 2004
Hailed as a return to form, 'Heroes to Zeros' is certainly an improvement on 'Hot Shots'. The Beta Band demand your attention; you don't put them on as background music. They are true innovators in terms of the content and structure of their songs - some seem to end, then they come right back at you; bigger, brighter, better. 'Assessment' and 'Space Beatle' are worth the price alone.
on 19 July 2005
to be honest i wasnt really looking forward to this that much...dont know why, just lack of excitement. amazon parcel arrives, booklet flipped through, slightly disappointed with artwork, cd loaded, play, assessment, yup i know this and like it lots, and....
the betas are back, indeed with a vengence. and its all or nothing with this one. the songs are fully formed, no noodling or french rapping this time around chumps. so whats it like? fantastic. from the opening chords of assessmeent it sets the tone totally yet it says nothing about the content of the album. songs range from the subline multi-steve-vocal harmonies of 'space' to the techno glitch of 'liquid bird'. and that still leaves another 9 songs to describe inbetween.
with hot shots ii, the album was great, but somehow lacked something. having seen them live they blew me away, but the album didnt have the energy...it was and is great, but not living. this time around its very big breathing and kicking. and to be honest, this hasnt left my cd player since i put it in last saturday [until now that is because its sunny and i wasnt to listen to doves]. thats unusual for me, normally i cant listen on repeat constantly.
i guess my major disappointment is the artwork...well, the lack of it. its just lyrics. kinda miss the old swooshy beta band logo...*shrug*... i'm complaining, oh and its in a jewel case....gah...
but this is an astonishing album...so much diversity yet it feels complete, its what the beta band were always capable of making, yet hadn't...but still i feel there is more to come...maybe this is just the tip of a hell of a lot more.
lets hope so
on 3 May 2004
I have heard just about all the Beta Band albums have have enjoyed them all, but this one is already my favorite. There are so many catchy parts to every song and they get stuck in your head the first time you listen to them.
Theres something about their sound that makes you able to just keep listening to the songs over and over, never getting sick of them.
The lyrics are also excellent. Not too serious all the time, but at times are.
My favorite songs so far on the album are, "Easy, Troubles, Space Beatle, Liquid bird, and Simple." The rest of them are excellent as well though.
I highly recommend buying this CD, even if you've never heard them. It will put you in a great mood.