Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Leading a 'Velvets existence'

The Beta Band were once described as The Velvet Underground of the 1990s, on account of the act's influence upon its contemporaries surmounting the actual number of records sold. I mean shit, even members of the celestial Radiohead considered themselves ardent fans: Yorke and crew had the Edinburgh act open for them during their 2001 summer tour; in the studio, Radiohead even expressed an interest in crafting "a Beta Band-type record."

The group's debut release came in July of 1997 with the EP Champion Versions. One aspect of the album that garnered attention was the eye-catching, cut-and-paste sleeve design, which was rather fitting since The Beta Band became known for employing a similar approach with its music.

Pick a genre and The Beta Band's members likely dipped their hands in it: folk, electronica, hip-hop (a bit unusual for a Scottish act), country, prog rock. But as with a collage, the key when listening to The Beta Band is not focusing on individual pieces within the assemblage of different forms, but on the new whole that was created. And more often than not, that new whole was fucking extraordinary.

Ultimately (and ironically), it was the aforementioned "Velvets existence" that did the group in: At the end of 2004, The Beta Band officially broke up, the frustration over much critical praise but no commercial impact cited as the main reason why.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "She's The One" by The Beta Band.