The Beta Band - Heroes To Zeroes

Mike Mantin 28/04/2004

Rating: 4/5

The best bands are often the most self-deprecating. Take the Beta Band: this is the lot that condemned their first record to Debut Indie Album Hell by themselves, calling it "shit". It is this rigorous perfectionism that has seen them constantly strive for the perfect formula instead of slightly tweaking a tried-and-tested one as the new albums roll out. We've had highly-praised early compilation The 3 EPs, that debut, 2001's so-so Hot Shots II, and now this.

This could be the point where That Beta Band bring their long-established Mind Of Their Own into the public eye. First single Assessment delves slightly into acts from the current rock scene- which they have hitherto almost completely avoided- to add a satisfying air of coherence into their brilliant but messy style. Musical elastic to hold the whole shebang together is altogether more common. Could the Betas have written a song as spine-tinglingly gorgeous as Lion Thief with a gameplan that involves banging pots and 15-minute drum solos? No, probably not.

Heroes To Zeroes is an ingeniously balanced album: while never veering into Top 20 dishwater-rock territory, the tunes are now designed to suit both their hardcore fanbase and wide-eyed kids enjoying rock climate. It's multi-layered prog-rock now wrapped in an accessible guitar sheen (partly thanks to Nigel Godrich's say in the proceedings). Steve Mason's echoey vocals now recall Elbow crooner Guy Garvey, and of course the lyrics are strange (This is the Beta Band, after all). In fact, the flaws that came with a band as adventurous as them are almost entirely absent.

The Beta Band have just assured their position in the big league, and part of the fun is not having a clue what the fuck they're going to do next.