They were one of the UK’s finest, during their lifetime. And The Beta Band’s influence continues to be felt today – you hear a little mystical magic in some indie strumming, a dash of delicious psychedelia in the mix, there’s a good chance that the artist in question’s been on the ‘Hot Shots II’ diet.
The Beta Band formed in 1996 and split eight years later. In that time, the band – over the years: John Maclean, Richard Greentree, Robin Jones, Gordon Anderson, Steve Mason and Steve Duffield – released three studio LPs, all of which charted inside the UK top 20. 1999’s eponymous collection furthered the critical acclaim collected off the back of three preceding EPs (compiled as 1998’s ‘The Three EPs’), and was followed by ‘Hot Shots II’ (2001) and ‘Heroes To Zeros’ (2004).
Since the group’s disbanding, two of their members have remained very active in the record-releasing market. Jones, Anderson and Maclean became The Aliens, while Steve Mason continues to carve out a successful solo career, under his own name and via various musical monikers.
With a new Beta Band release on the horizon – the six-disc ‘The Regal Years (1997-2004)’ (out October 7th), Clash got to thinking about the very best tracks to have been penned by this exceptional British act. But rather than list our own favourites, we turned to another band celebrated for its singularly brilliant, somewhat-skewed takes on indie-rock and pop, Super Furry Animals.
The Welsh group is quiet at the moment, allowing time for individual members to explore solo projects. And keyboard player Cian Ciaran is doing just that – his second album, ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’, is out on September 23rd and is reviewed right here.
Clash invited Cian to select his Beta Band top 10 – and that’s precisely what he’s done. Thanks, chap! Be sure to click to our exclusive Richard Greentree-written liner notes from ‘The Regal Years’, too, which you can find here.
Over to Mr Ciaran…
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‘Assessment’ (from ‘Heroes To Zeros’)
“Tune! I loves repetitive guitars like this and how they stay linear over the entire track. It gives the whole song that coasting feeling – a journey that they take you on. Beautifully melodic, too. Proper psychedelic middle section. Reversed shit always floats my boat, and then it leads you into the brass-accompanied work-out ending.”
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‘It’s Not Too Beautiful’ (from ‘The Beta Band’)
“Sounds like Ringo to me in the beginning – he’s my favourite drummer, maybe after Mitch Mitchell. But the track has a ‘White Album’ feel somehow, and shades of The Stone Roses. Not that I’m looking for references, but you can't help it. So, while I’m at it: John Barry with the string samples, or James Bond with those footsteps which set up the outro nicely. Acid-fuelled in the middle eight. Thumbs up.”
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‘Dr. Baker’ (from the EP ‘Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos’ / ‘The Three EPs’)
“So, you might have guessed by now, I like my psychedelics – and so do The Beta Band by the sound of it. The twinkle sounds and piano interchange with that chant-like vocal, and it gives you that continuity over the track. But it weaves from one mood to another seamlessly. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
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‘She’s The One’ (from the EP ‘The Patty Patty Sound’ / ‘The Three EPs’)
“Like I’ve already mentioned, two words: John Barry. I like his work and this track starts off like a Morricone soundtrack, but is quickly taken over by a repetitive guitar groove. It gets my head nodding and takes me off on one again. The sped-up vocals remind me of early hardcore music, my first love, perhaps just behind acid house.”
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‘Squares’ (from ‘Hot Shots II’)
“A non-conforming pop track, a uniquely Beta Band sound that sticks in your head. Sounds strangely familiar but can't put my finger on it. Melody meets acid.”
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‘Dry The Rain’ (from the EP ‘Champion Versions’ / ‘The Three EPs’)
“I’m gonna start side two with this one. It reminds me of being on tour as it got played on the Super Furries’ bus and backstage – either that or I dreamt it all. I like the lazy feel, but it still keeps your interest and builds over time. Nice uplifting feeling for me, with a classic outro to boot! In fact, I’d have it as an outro to this playlist, but I’m gonna bring you down gently instead.”
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‘Quiet’ (from ‘Hot Shots II’)
“I like the intro. Well, really I like it all, noting that there’s some synths in there for good measure. Great drum groove and the descending bit before we come back to the drops come unexpectedly at first.”
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‘Gone’ (from ‘Hot Shots II’)
“Nice, blissed-out vibe. Reminds me of a Dennis Wilson and others on a similar West Coast tip. I like the chord progressions. Simple yet effective. Less is more.”
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‘Space Beatle’ (from ‘Heroes To Zeros’)
“Joe Meek springs to mind, if you’ll excuse the pun. Without wanting to repeat myself I just love psychedelic music and this has it once again. I couldn’t do this if I tried. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. It’s like having a dinner you couldn’t cook yourself, so you appreciate it more.”
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‘Monolith’ (from the EP ‘The Patty Patty Sound’ / ‘The Three EPs’)
“This is my finale to a great listen. What is the Brazilian like sample? R2D2 has a welcome guest appearance after a night out in the pub, too. The environment recordings on top, with a looped muted vocal, remind me of 7am, when the sun comes up earlier than you expected or wanted, but then you forget and welcome in the new day with a beaming smile.
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The Beta Band’s ‘The Regal Years (1997-2004)’ is released on October 7th. Read Richard Greentree's sleeve notes for it here.
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Stream tracks by The Beta Band via Deezer, below…