the beta band try being actual hotshots
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Okay, so everyone's already heard that Lit song. Fine. But is it not amazing!?

Anyway, today I'm offering up two tracks from bands that appear to be reinventing themselves. Reinvention's a very tricky thing: although groups are often slagged for a lack of "evolution," said evolution can easily ruin a perfectly good act. One of my old roommates once bitched me out for criticizing an Orchestre Baobab album as "just the same thing" as their earlier work. And her criticism was apt - in retrospect, I wouldn't want those crazy Senegalese fellows to change. Still, there's a lot to be said for pushing yourself and exploring as an artist - see Radiohead, the Velvet Underground, the Beatles, the Stones...

But ultimately I don't really have any point to this rant, and I'm certainly not telling you anything you don't already know, so I'll simply stop.

The Beta Band - "Assessment". The debut single from the Betas' new record, Heroes to Zeroes (check out the art!). Everyone's yelling that the fumbling stoner experimentalists have gone U2. I'm not really familiar with those Irish fellas' oeuvre, but I'm told that the guitar riff is the same as in U2's "I Will Follow." U2 seems to me like an unlikely Beta Band influence, though - I think it's much more likely that the band's been listening to Interpol.

Trouble is, although upbeat-mellow vocals from Steve Mason, an upbeat-mellow bassline, and Interpol (ie, souped-up Joy Division) guitars, sound like they could be cool, the track is pretty mediocre. I'm always a sucker for slammed bass drums and a horn section (hello Gomez's "In Our Gun"), but even that noisy finale isn't enough to sell me on the 'new' Beta Band. I much prefer the dusty shrugging of "Dry the Rain" and "Dr Baker."

The Cardigans - "Communication". On the other hand, here's the much-ballyhoo'd single from the Cardigans' 2003 turn to And it's wonderful - one of the best songs of the year. Nina Persson's voice is cream, and the song itself is sunset: catchy and careful and so casually proficient. They do this much better than they do alt.pop, "Love Fool"'s sassy hook aside. The only woeful bit is the drowsy solo at the three-minute mark, but it's soon washed away by the song's dusk-sun spread, its muted mona lisa smile. (And yes, I know that many of you have probably heard this: hear it again!)

Finally, a necessary shout-out to the video of Alberta Slim's "She Taught Me To Yodel". He's the most ancient, emaciated Canadian yodeller you'll ever see, but if there was ever to be a superhero battle between Johnny Cash and a same-genre antithesis, Slim would be it. (via chris)

Posted by Sean at March 4, 2004 7:39 PM

nina persson's voice kills me every time, but half the time i can't decide if i love the cardigans or just sort of like them. the first time i heard this album i nearly never listened to it again, the second time i fell in love and i really couldn't even say why.

Posted by justiny at March 5, 2004 1:23 AM

Wow, that Cardigans song is amazing! So unexpectedly good. Damn you for introducing me to something I might now like to pick up and have no money for.

Posted by caley at March 5, 2004 3:10 AM

I'd never heard the Lit song before, nor heard of Lit, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you!

Posted by jen at March 5, 2004 7:37 AM

The Beta Band track is beginning to grow on me. I dunno what all this fuss about them taking a "new" direction is, they've had many a noisy finale before... It's a real grower. Just a crisper production than their earliest efforts. I really dunno about the sleeve though, it's remarkably similar to the Ash Greatest Hits set "Super Sonic 7's" or whatever it was called. Still, great to have 'em back.

Posted by Ronan at March 8, 2004 7:55 AM

The Beta Band track (with the exception of the opening riff -- that's 100% U2) *totally* reminds me of Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Posted by Paul at March 8, 2004 5:03 PM

Paul I was just thinking the same thing about the new beta track (soundtrack of our lives) and then i read your post. good call. great fucking song though

Posted by Noah Harpham at March 11, 2004 6:34 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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