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The Beta Band 

Our critics' picks in new releases

The second full-length from this freewheeling Scottish quartet continues their M.O--mixing musical styles into a succulent melange that defies description. Prominently name-checked by John Cusack's music-enslaved character, Rob, in the film High Fidelity, the band has developed a well-earned reputation for thoughtful arrangements that incorporate a wide array of musical influences from avant-rock to ambient breakbeat, post-rock discursiveness and light-hearted pop, deployed without heed to traditional verse-chorus-verse construction techniques. Floating by on an ethereal lighter-than-air groove, the band's music seems to exist outside such considerations as good or bad, offering only their intriguing architecture as bread crumbs into their dense soundscapes. Which isn't to deny the brilliance of this album, but only to recognize that it's not as quickly digested as most of your more common prêt-a-manger consumables.

While every song has a distinct personality, several songs stand out. "Human Being" opens with an airy guitar riff worthy of Oasis, soon abetted by light piano and then subtly swelling synth, filling over a rhythm track that sounds like the steady, clipped click of baseball cards in your bike spokes, then ending with an escalating roar and fade out as singer Stephen Mason intones, "We might just break, can hear us trying."

The album closes with its strongest tracks--"Eclipse," a wonderful, melodically rich, post-millennial, life-affirming answer to Brian Wilson's "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times," and "Won," which bends prog-rock staple, "One," from a homage into a furious rap. This is the kind of album that would grow even on a rolling stone.
----chris parker

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Latest in MUSIC: Soundbite

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