|The Beta Band - Human Being|
Whole bunch of reasons - work being the most boring, the Royal Albert Hall the most interesting.
The most honest is that I have been debating in my mind how to write about this song and this band.
Why? "It's just a band..."
Yeah, but, well, etc. I love the Beta Band in the way that a 37 yr old really shouldn't - if I was 12, in the mid 70's and was obsessed by David Bowie, my appreciation of TBB would be suitable. It isn't now.
Does that mean I am a "Beta Band apologist"? No. For example - this video is shit. Yes the nursey character is enticing to a level I really don't want to admit to, but it is utter tosh. I don't like all of their work - some of it I don't 'get' - maybe I need to listen to the stuff I don't like a bit more....
In my opinion The Beta Band are one of only about 5 bands I truly believe should be huge.
How big should they be? U2 big, Coldplay big, AC DC big. Those horrid juggernauts of rock that will never go away big. Why they aren't around now and aren't massive would make a fantastic book about the business of being in a band.
Someone needs to write it.
In brief (and greatly edited) a talented group of musicians formed the Beta Band and released 3 EPs (remember them?) they were compiled into a stunning CD (named the 3 EPs...) Their first album was critically acclaimed although they were not happy with how it ended up. They released 2 further albums - of which this single comes from the second - Hot Shots II in 2002. After their final album Heroes to Zeroes, they split up. Why? They weren't where they wanted to be at that stage in their careers. Two members are in "The Aliens" and Steve Mason went on to a solo career; in a band, experimenting with dark Electro as Black Affair and recently released a solo album which had more moments of pure songwriting beauty than anything else I heard in 2010. In fact, I didn't write a 'Best of 2010' because the only new music I liked in 12 months was that solo album.
The music TBB produced often had journalists (and producers) scratching their heads as how to categorise it. A bugbear that would haunt them - they weren't rock, folk, hip hop, rap or pop but drew on all these influences. They were musicians, who made music. I have written before about categorisation and use of language to pigeon-hole artists. It's horrifically constricting, both for the artist and the audience.
If you are sold as 'Brit pop' how can you ever use a sampler? If you are a 'dance music' band it is thought of as odd if you have a real drummer and guitarist. Perhaps not so much now, but ten years ago ease of marketability was a concern for record companies.
What TBB did in the studio was create songs (or shall I return to use the all encompassing word 'chune'?) In Human being, a genuinely sweet song, you can hear accordians, 12 string guitars, drum samples, a horn line on occasion, arpegiated piano twinkling in and out and Steve Mason's pure honest voice double tracked and harmonising in a rythmical fashion - almost adding another drum track.
My favourite moment in the 4 minutes (or 4 min 30 secs depending on the mix) is the crossover to the ending, where the accordian voice changes into a magnificent hammond organ, the 12 string guitar is overtaken by a distorted guitar that has the word "rock" written through it's core from headstock to tail-piece and the drums move from a simple laid-back hip hop beat to full Keith Moon frenzy in about ten seconds flat. All of this emphasising the pleading of the lines sung.
So when music this original and inventive is being written, why isn't it successful?
- They were ahead of their time - many bands have clearly taken their lead and have done similar things once a large established fan base had been achieved. However, start as an original sound it is terribly difficult to get a large following. Just listen to Radioheads "Pablo Honey" and any of their last 3 albums - it is as though they were written by different bands.
- Production and marketing not understanding what was needed from them for artists outside of their knowledge.
- And the most heartbreaking - sheer bloody bad luck. This plays such a large part in a bands success, this conclusion can be made about all of my '5 bands that should be huge'.
However, feeling melancholy over a band that split up years ago is stupid - we are left with happily with 3 albums, 1 collection of EPs and the band members present careers.
As the final line of the song states;
"It’s all so beautiful what’s the point of it all?"