04 October 2005

the beta band - "dry the rain (live)" (from the best of the beta band lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : where did it all go wrong?

actually, a better question would be, "how could it possibly have all gone right?" a founding member leaves b/c of mental illness before they get signed; they describe their own debut proper as "the worst record of the year" (and it was probably recorded that way intentionally); they name their second album after a charlie sheen movie (and not after major league either). the odds were against them from the start. and, yet, i was reading a review the other day and i was reminded that, at the height of the beta's critical success, both oasis and radiohead, the two biggest british acts of the era, had proclaimed their desire to make a "beta band record" (and, indeed, the band even opened for the latter). "dry the rain," too, had a feature moment in the film adaptation of high fidelity, john cusack's character projecting the track over the p.a., confidently declaring that he would now sell five copies of the three ep's by the beta band.

of course, neither oasis nor radiohead made a beta band record, and whatever fame high fidelity garnered for them was fleeting at best. one thing radiohead and, to a degree, oasis could sympathize w/ the band over was hit song as albatross, viz. "creep," "wonderwall" (in the u.s., at least), and "dry the rain." i hesitated at first from posting that song, but it eventually seemed like a good idea, just don't ask me to explain why. they had effectively retired the song in 2002, but i suppose they felt as if they couldn't deny the fans on this, their last tour.

given how masochistic the band seems to be--i'd bet dollars-to-doughnuts that the band begged astralwerks to release, essentially, their "greatest hits" on the same day that another, somewhat more popular scottish band released their new album--given that masochistic streak, part of me thinks that their ultimate goal would be to have somehow gotten "dry the rain" onto rhino's have a nice day series. to me, though, and to the crowd at this concert, recorded precisely a week before the band's last ever gig, they'll always be somewhat more than that. again, don't ask me to explain exactly what they are, for that would cause all of the charm to fall out.

on "round the bend" (sadly, not on this collection), steve mason sings:
I listened to the Beach Boys just a minute ago
'Wild Honey' it's not their best album
but it's still pretty good
They've got some funny little love songs on there
But its not mainly a Brian Wilson production
So it's probably not as good as something like 'Pet Sounds'
the beta band made a career out of making albums like wild honey and, as a beach boys fan, i mean that as a high compliment. after the three ep's, the pressure must have been on to make something amounting to a smile, if not a pet sounds. the band probably thought they made smiley smile, but they were off by an album. the beta band made deceptively simple, shabby, warm, a working definition of "shambolic,"really only placing a foot wrong when they tried too hard. in other words, they're like a friend's band, only w/ friends you'd never have to lie to when asked, "what did you think?"

there is not trumpet player on this version of "dry the rain," but no one seems to mind. it begins w/ steve dedicating the song to the woman who got them their deal; it ends w/ the audience singing the coda. for a band never taken to the nation's heart, i can only imagine the thrill of hearing something you so unassumingly put together--"literally" around the corner, mason adds--sung back at you. ("you do it better than us!" mason shouts enthusiastically.) the fans never overpowered the band, though; one only hears them take over when the band has stopped. it is a mark of the respect and affection the fans have for the band--indeed, i've owned all of the albums, but somehow i felt i just owed it to the band to buy this, too. three cheers for the beta band, then: never widely loved, but well-loved. what more, really, could this lot have hoped for?

(hopefully, i've just sold five copies of the best of the beta band.)

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