A Junkyard Fool With Eyes of Gloom

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I was introduced to The Beta Band from the movie High Fidelity. Dry The Rain came out of the speakers from the fictional record store like a tune The Beatles left behind when the met with the Maharishi in 1968. That brief moment on screen was enough to convince me to buy the 3 E.P.s and explore the existential world The Beta Band lived in that was compelling as it was confusing, but I stuck with them. You could argue several of the tracks aren’t really songs but mantras that have repeated lyrics and slight variations in vocals and music. The Beta Band don’t show much restraint but a lot of the times they sense when to change course before losing the patient listener. In fact I would say this record more than any other I had experienced before taught me to let the songs unfold before giving up on it because rewards were coming if you were willing to stay the course. Monolith is a sprawling fifteen minute track and not where you would want to start if you’re interested in hearing the Beta’s work but it’s like a Baby Einstein song only for adult minds. She’s The One and Dogs Got A Bone are two other interesting tracks that start out somewhat conventional and take unusual twists and turns like a ride from one of those traveling carnivals that have been on the road a very long time. Listening to all 3 E.P.s in one setting is a task so it was wise for the band to release these songs over three different records but the sum of all three parts is also very enjoyable. If I were to pick one track as a test for new listeners I would go with B + A an instrumental that has a variety of moods that starts casually and builds into a wall of sound. I’m not surprised the Beta Band’s output is limited to 3 full albums with a handful of compilations since I don’t know how music this cerebral and yet passionate could be sustained for a long period of time. There are a lot of demands in listening to the music I can only imagine the strains of composing the work. I like their three albums but none of them quite connect like this compilation does and I chalk it up to the rare air where everything works and the difficulty of repeating it would be maddening. To use a High Fidelity phrase the album is in my Top 5 and I doubt anyone will knock it out of there any time soon. I mimic the spirit of the movie and play the music for others every chance I get, but so far, I haven’t convinced anybody that it is as great as I think it is. It may be the band’s legacy to be appreciated by only the few but then again a mantra is a very personal phrase that helps someone concentrate on their meditation, maybe it was supposed the be that way.       

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