The Beta Band | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Beta Band 

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The Beta Band made one of the grander entrances into the American mainstream when John Cusack's lovelorn record store owner in High Fidelity announced, "I will now sell five copies of The Three E.P.'s by the Beta Band," and proceeded to do just that, as the irresistible long-fade chorus of "Dry the Rain" drove one customer after another up to the front counter to ask about the song. At their best, the three British EPs contained on that disc--1997's Champion Versions and 1998's The Patty Patty Sound and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos--found a middle ground between the moody naturalism of British folk (complete with pots-and-pans percussion) and the electronic hypnosis of trip-hop. But any fans the Scottish quartet might've gained by that extraordinary bit of publicity were probably furious when they ran out and picked up their most recent release at the time, the 1999 full-length The Beta Band--an anarchic mix of weak song fragments, ill-conceived samples, clunky genre experiments, and endless percussion jams. (It could've been worse: according to New Musical Express, the band originally wanted to record their opus in four different parts of the world, and a second disc containing two 30-minute ambient tracks was nixed by their record company.) "It's definitely the worst record we've ever made and it's probably one of the worst records that'll come out this year," guitarist Steve Mason frankly told NME shortly before the album's release. "It's got some terrible songs on it....None of them are fully realized or fully even written." The Betas got a second chance this summer, capturing the coveted opening spot on Radiohead's U.S. tour and doing their best to erase the memory of the earlier debacle with the hopefully titled Hot Shots II (Astralwerks). The ten songs are fully written and realized, catchy and concise, and while there are some surprises, they're pleasant ones (like the nocturnally still "Gone"). This one may not sell five copies whenever it hits the speakers, but at least people won't be racing for the door with their hands over their ears. Thursday, October 25, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Corinne Day.

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