Hot Shots II, The Beta Band Astralwerks

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Astralwerks

Described as a continuation of “the band”s never-ending exploration into all things rock, electronic, hip-hop, funk basically every non-polka variety of music,” on The Beta Band”s website, Hot Shots II is more than just a simple exploratory trip. Instead the album delves deeper, into the inner psyche of the band and their amalgam of creative influences.

In a selection of tunes transfused with a trip-hop beat, illogical yet stunning combinations of vocalist Stephen Mason”s lines and other instruments sampled or not, the album is definitely not for those who crave a daily dose of major-label hook-laden glittery pop.

In choosing to step away from summer tour-mates Radiohead, and the current rash of MTV sensibility, Hot Shots II follows in the same irreverent direction as their past two albums, 1998″s The Three EPs, and their lesser quality first major label release, The Beta Band. Hot Shots II, as the band”s sophomore major label release, brings the band back online with the level of musicality shown in their first release.

Though the album as a whole flows well, certain tracks prove to be standouts.

For example, placed squarely in the middle of the album, “Dragon” is a pithy and involved song, a tightly woven piece of the puzzle that is the album as a whole.

On an album with languid airy spaces, such as “Human Being,” “Gone” and “Life,” involved and complicated tracks, plus sections of songs such as “Dragon,” “Quiet” and “Squares,” tend to be the glue that makes what is already a strong album even stronger.

“Eclipse,” as the final track on the album, provides a fittingly odd ending to an odd album by an odd band. The main lyrics of the song highlight this, and the band”s taste for the absurd as well. Listen to it, and you”ll see what I mean.

To top it off, what follows is a bonus track called “Won,” which contains a free-flowing amalgam of samples of 3 Dog Night”s “One” and a curiously clever freestyle-sounding rap. However, where the odd generally connotates strange and unlikable, Hot Shots II proves to be exactly the opposite.

Though not for the masses, the album is a stroke of near genius from the mainly Scottish band. The only detraction to the selection is that it seems there is no overwhelming track or group of tracks to push you the final inch over the edge. Perhaps it”s all in the plan, a part of the subtle sophistication that The Beta Band laid down on the disc.

Grade: A-

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