Loving you shouldn’t be this hard.
Sorry to start with what must sound like the chorus from a lost 80s power ballad. But I’m setting myself up to talk about a band that generates equal parts pleasure and frustration. With One Week One Band, Hendrik kindly provides us wordy types with a platform from which to gush (in an astute and insightful way, natch) about a favorite artist. But I’m here to confess a more complicated relationship. For me, the Beta Band’s an estranged sibling or fondly remembered ex: I love ‘em, but they make me so mad sometimes. I listen to one of their songs, “Inner Meet Me” or “To You Alone,” and think they’re the greatest band since the Beatles—maybe the greatest band ever! Then I hear another, say “The Beta Band Rap,” and wonder how I ever fell for such a hoax. If you’re a fan—or lapsed fan—you too have felt these things.
I’m not going to sling a lot of facts your way this week. For reference, Wikipedia has the usual potted history that’s probably more accurate than not. Still, I’ll highlight a couple points from the official narrative. In 1997, following some early lineup shifts, three Scotsmen (Steve Mason on guitar and vocals, percussionist Robin Jones and keyboardist, sampler, DJ John Maclean) and an English bloke (bassist Richard Greentree) start collaging psychedelic rock, hip hop, folk, house, R&B, dub reggae (and more!) into weird, wonderful pop music. Their several EPs generate underground buzz and the fresh-meat-grinding UK music press declares tBB the Next Big Thing, heaping unsustainable hyperbole and blah blah blandishments on the unwitting musicians. But tBB waste opportunities, self sabotage. They release a maddening, brilliant mess of a self-titled debut LP in 1999, piss off the press, their peers and their record label, then redeem themselves somewhat with a sharp second album in 2001 (Hot Shots II) and a slick, radio-baiting third (Heroes to Zeros) before hanging it up in 2004. Reasons for their breakup range from the record-buying public’s disinterest in buying their records, emotional and drug issues, and a massive overdraft (aka the usual suspects).
Along the way they influence musicians who know special when they hear it, elicit hosannas from critics and collect a small, patient fan base of geeks (hiya!) who fervently believe that tBB coulda been a contender. The greatest of all time. For real.
If they hadn’t fucked it up.
Or maybe they didn’t?