A somewhat peculiar way to send off a very peculiar band, The Best of the Beta Band
is a two-disc compilation (priced as a single) intended for newcomers and collectors alike, with disc one a best-of and disc two a recording of one of the last gigs. Any Betas fan is bound to have at least one problem with the selection of tracks on the first disc. That's to be expected. One notion that nearly every fan will agree on, however, is that each of the band's albums has its own identity and would be better off left, and therefore experienced, intact. (The real
nuts griped when the first three EPs were simply bound together.) You do want the albums, from front to back, with all the exposed seams and strokes of genius tied together, as they were intended to be heard. But this is a fine point of entry, containing the five proper singles and most of the other best-known moments, including a lumbering anthem that crosses Primal Scream
's "Loaded" with Harvest folk rocker Michael Chapman
's "It Didn't Work Out" ("Dry the Rain"), a bewildering epic (that tries not to be an epic) with incidental orchestral sweeps ("It's Not Too Beautiful"), and a gorgeously spare ballad that might or might not be about an alien who lost his memory and fell in love after wrecking his spacecraft ("Gone"). After a jovial "Good evening, London -- how the f*ck are you
?" the live disc rolls through nine of the 16 songs heard on the best-of, in addition to "Dr. Baker," "Quiet," "Dog's Got a Bone," and a riotous "House Song." Since the crowd knows about the planned breakup, it's very appreciative, and the Betas make a convincing case for being considered a live band as much as a studio band. The booklet is a gas, containing a series of graphic jokes where you would normally see a career summary involving phrases like "criminally underrated," "wildly influential," and "critically acclaimed but commercially underappreciated."