It’s been six years now since The Beta Band ended the brief first stage of their career (three bewitching EPs) and embarked on the second: proper albums, coherent gigs, and a prolonged sense of anti-climax. After 2001’s slightly disappointing appropriation of R&B, Hot Shots II, Heroes To Zeros is, sadly, a slightly disappointing attempt to hammer their quirks into a more commercial rock shape.
The way the songs lope around in circles hasn’t materially changed, and there’s still something appealing about Steve Mason’s lackadaisical chants. But the bullish treatments (foul U2-style guitars on “Assessment”, a characteristically prissy mix from Nigel Godrich) are too heavy-handed for such whimsical and fundamentally fragile songs. There’s an air of desperation, finality: an indie label, a minuscule budget and a regression into semi-competence would suit The Beta Band much better.