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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

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Has there ever been a better or more calculated "musical intervention" than when John Cusack playing "Rob" in the film "Hi Fidelity" put on "Dry the Rain" from the Beta Bands transcendent folk album "the Three EPs" and the punters in his record shop lapped it up (it was lucky that Cusack didn't play Monolith!). Indeed at one point during the early part of this century it looked like the Beta's mix of musical alchemy and sheer dottiness would conquer the earth. If they could have only translated the critical praise they received into record sales they would have been superstars. Alas it was not to be but its great to see in 2010 the very welcome return of Steve Mason the original architect of the Beta Band on this excellent new LP "Boys outside".

Mason has gone through hard times and in 2006 he effectively disappeared leaving a message on a website stating simply "Peace to you all....It's been amazing but I've had enough. Over and out". He had once described the Beta's eponymous debut as a "crock of" of a certain substance to his label EMI's massive annoyance , had suffered from rolling dark depression and had relationship problems both in and out of the band. A recent interview with Dave Simpson in the Guardian sets all this out in detail but most importantly shows that Mason is turning around his life.

Thus "Boys Outside" sees him return in a much happier state of mind with a lovely album of hymnal electronic soul and that wonderful warm voice which now bears some comparisons to the rich tones of Elbow's Guy Garvey, combined with a quiet despairing quality witch always underpinned the best Beta Band sounds. Highlights on this album include the brilliant "Lost and Found" which does echo the first part of Dry the Rain, the very bright pop opener "Understand my heart" with its glorious bouncing synths and harmonies, the mellow love song "Am I just a man" and the ghostly ballad "All come down". My personal favourite is the gentle and autobiographical song "The letter" with its touching lyrics and uplifting chorus. This album is far more structured and conventional than anything Mason did with the Beta's and some may miss the quirkiness and experimentation at all costs approach of his former band. This would be churlish since many ghosts and demons still haunt Mason and the last song "Hound On My Heel" acknowledges that there remains a precarious journey to travel. But let us not dwell on Mason's bad times since all in all "Boys Outside" is a fantastic return to form.
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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2011
Watching the Beta Band on stage for the last time at the Eden Project supporting Supergrass brought home the full tragedy of how a band so great were ultimately sold down the river by their record company who insisted on big sales from a cult band.

Steve re-appeared last year as King Biscuit Time, with a good, solid album with obvious leanings to the Beta Band, but this is a very big step forward in his career. It's left-field pop, with a nod to his former bands, but carves out a path all of his own with catchy pop tracks that hold this work together really well.

It's already been written that this is more cohesive than the Beta Band and that's true enough. Thankfully we also have the wonderful The Aliens to carry on that spirit. But for now, luxuriate in the warmth and wisdom if the marvellous Steve Mason who has in this record, made the best work of his career.

Do not let this pass you buy, it's just too good.
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on 31 December 2014
great stuff. Arrived in time for Christmas :)
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on 3 January 2011
I'll state the obvious and mention that I love the Beta Band as well as the offspring musical output from The Aliens. I've received this album for Christmas after sticking it on my 'wish list' and the album has been kept cosy and warm in my cars' stereo over the past few days.

It's a wonderful album, Steve's haunting voice permeates each of the warmly produced, mesmeric songs that deal with tragedy and heartbreak without ever sounding bitter or overly hard done by. I really regret not seeing him live last year especially as he played locally to me but if as it mentions on his website he does end up perfomrming live agian this year then I'll definitly attend a show. I'm already looking forward to new material from him.
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on 6 May 2010
Anyone with a passing interest in music will know the Beta Band nearly collided with the times but were just out of reach.

Steve Mason might be happiest being in the distance but Boys Outside is an incredible companion. This is an amazing, highly personal
record that emits real emotion. Not the nebulous grasping at platitudes of overblown Coldpatrol gestures but real raw-knuckle hurt, grief
and redemption. Boys Outside is the kind of record Nick Drake would make if he'd lived through adulthood. It doesn't sound like Nick Drake it sounds like the best pieces of 3Eps filtered through wisdom, melody and deep musical space. 'Am I Just A Man In Love" "I Let Her In"
"All Come Down". All masterpieces of introspection filtered through Richard X's Screamadelica meets Dennis Wilson production.

For the last ten years lonely boys in jumpers have been trying to make out that singer-songwriting is detuning a guitar and showing your feminine side to field full of people being twee.

Ignore all that. This is bruised music that's lived a little and come back from the brink, and listening to it makes you feel like you've made a new friend.

This is a real 21st Century masterpiece for any music lover.

You know the real thing when you hear it
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on 11 May 2010
I was always a fan of the Beta Band, but never fealt like they strung together a whole album (3 EPs included in that) that I particularly wanted to listen to all the way through again and again.

That's not the case with this collection. When I first had a listen to the previews above I thought it sounded a bit cold, but when I heard the whole songs they revealed themselves to be warm, beautiful and catchy. Sad but gently uplifting.

I buy way too many albums but this really is a standout.

Go get this gorgeous record. It keeps getting better.
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on 30 July 2013
I just love Steve Mason's passion - the words, the emotion, the beat, and especially the raw power of his songs. He writes so personally and as ever, the more personal something is, the more universal its appeal.
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on 4 January 2014
I bought this thinking that the bonus 'dub' version would be a fairly pointless addition, as it's not really my kind of thing, but these songs are so exquisitely put together, and generally wonderful that I can't get enough of either version!
I liked the album immediately, which is not always a good sign for me, as I usually prefer 'growers', but the fact that I liked it was just a sign of things to come...as this one has indeed grown on me. It has genuinely gone into my list of all time favourites in the space of a short few days. Outstanding, melodic, touching and superbly crafted in every way...and the dub version is great! Buy this immediately.
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on 7 May 2010
One of the earlier reviewers describes this as 'bruised' etc and it is the most accurate word I can think of to apply to what I feel is one of the best albums so far in 2010.
Strangely enough, I was never a Beta Band fanatic but this is a dark and stunning album with hints of Joseph Arthur so that will immediately classify this for his fans.
Although it is dark and moody it is not like that all the way through although even the more upbeat numbers are tinged with gloom once the lyrics are listened to!
The one downside is the packaging etc where I threw away the wrapping only to discover that was the only way of identifying the various tracks without typing them out again!
Moody, melancholy, sad are all suitable words but you cannot get away from 'bruised and battered' as covering this perfectly.
A real gem in my opinion that will probably not be recognised for its true worth for some months.
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on 19 May 2013
Went back and bought this after being impressed with the new album, Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time. The single album version sells for about £8-10, so the fact that this comes with the dub remixes thrown in and still costs only half as much is great value. If you enjoyed the Beta Band or Steve's current album but missed out on this, buy it. You won't regret it. If you're not familiar with his work, buy it anyway because you're missing out on a gem.
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