2B - Thursday, November 30, 2006 the b-sideT
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
ABC gets 'Lost' on the way to February.
The Beta Band (1998)
The Three E.P.'s
By CAITLIN COWAN
You've probably seen it.
Midway through the film adap-
tation of Nick Hornby's "High
Fidelity," John Cusack says, "I
will now sell five copies of The
Three E.P.'s by the Beta Band"
with the self-assurance of a king.
He leans down, inserts an album
and presses play. "Dry the Rain"
revolves into action and all the
customers in Championship Vinyl
start slowly, rhythmically, bobbing
their heads. "Take me in and dry
the rain / Take me in and dry the
rain the rain the rain the rain the
rain the rain now ... " a voice sings
from the speakers.
Then the heavy-footed thump
of the bass kicks in. The slipping,
sliding strum of the guitar ascends
and descends in time with the
beat, and hushed maracas shake
and whisper in the background.
Everything moves leisurely but
who the band he was hearing was,
a man browsing through records
looks up and says, "It's good."
Cusack just says "I know."
That's what makes The Three
E.P's and the Beta Band so
enchanting. Their work on this
albumin particulartaps into some-
thing primal, something absolute-
ly innate that is easily identifiable
but hard to describe. Songs like
"Dry the Rain," "B+A" and "Dog
Got a Bone," with their heavy,
easygoing beats, sound as natural
as heartbeats and footfalls.
The Beta Band, a quartet of
friends from Edinburgh, Scotland,
formed in the late '90s to create a
unique blend of folk, electronic,
ambient and indie-rock music. The
greatness of "The Three E.P.'s"
surely stems from its variegated
origins. The record is a collection
of three limited-edition EPs the
band released between 1997 and
1998. The result of this amalgama-
tion is nothing less than brilliant.
The album is dreamy without
losing sight of the ground. The
band never embarks on a wander-
ing piano line without knowing
exactly where it's headed. Their
choruses are repetitive without
becoming dull and vapid. The band
effortlessly and layering cerebral
samples down as if it were as natu-
ral as breathing.
While the driving "Dry the
Rain" starts the album off on the
highest of high points, the tracks
that follow are stunning as well,
and range from mellow folk-rock
like "It's Over" to full-on psyche-
delia on tracks like "Needles in My
"She's The One" jangles along
with the help of an unusual yet
effective mouth harp beneath Ste-
phen Mason's faraway vocals. His
voice is so melodic that it's easy to
overlook the silly, sing-song lyr-
ics that lead into the song's most
important idea: "Falling on your
face with your stupid line brace /
Saying, pop goes the weasel as he
paints another easel / Grab a piece
of pie / She's your chicken in your
eye ... " And then, as if to explain
all his nonsense away, "She's the
one for me / She's the one for me."
The 15-minute "Monolith" is,
well, a monolith. One of the few
low points of the album, the mam-
moth song drones on and on. If
listened to long enough, it does,
however, become strangely hyp-
"It's Over" is similarly mono-
tonic, but the vocals are more
No alphas or
omegas. Just the
fully realized and lend themselves
well to the sedate ambiance of the
album's second half.
What the Beta Band is best at
is creating a kind of open-ended
sound. One of the most appealing
aspects of the album is the ability
to dissociate from the act of actu-
ally listening to it. As soon as it's
tuned out, the music of "The Three
E.P.'s" creeps back into conscious-
ness, or, as is often the case, it
becomes the soundtrack to intro-
Either way, their music slinks in
and out of listeners' ears and cre-
ates atmosphere where the once
was none. No amount of descrip-
tion can paint and adequate sonic
picture of this album. Its sensibil-
ity is so instinctive that it requires
actual contact to understand.
So why is The Three E.P's so
"good?" It just is. No amount of
long-winded description or per-
sonal narrative about the first time
you listened to them can do what
the Beta Band does sonically -
create the resounding sensation of
inherent, rhythmic feeling that's
so strong it can be tangibly felt.
By BEN MEGARGEL
Daily Arts Writer
Is "Lost" losing its swagger? In a surprise
upset, CBS's sophomore crime drama "Crimi-
nal Minds" recently usurped "Lost" as the
most watched show on Wednesday nights.
"Criminal Minds" inched out "Lost" in view-
ers for the week of October 30 to November
5, garnering 16.97 million viewers to "Lost's"
16.07. The show maintained its lead the follow-
ing week despite a heavily promoted cliffhang-
er on "Lost."
"Criminal Minds" couldn't have come at a
more inopportune time for "Lost," which is
going on a three-month hiatus before return-
ing in February with 16 back-to-back episodes.
The move to split up the season arose after fans
griped that blocks of repeats between new epi-
sodes during season two were detrimental to the
Why 'Lost' might be
just that: ABC, watch
flow of the serial-style show. This new approach,
as executive producer Carlton Cuse explained
to Entertainment Weekly, "became the compro-
mise" between delaying the entire season until
January and continuing clusters of reruns.
Other shows with highly complex narra-
tives have delayed their starting time to Janu-
ary with great success. Fox's "24" began its
fifth season in January 2006, running without
repeats until May sweeps. This strategy paid
off well: "24" posted 14 percent gains in total
viewers over the previous season, as well as
wins in all the key demographics.
It seems a similar strategy should have
been the obvious decision for ABC produc-
ers. Fans may be both fickle and forgetful, but
an established show like "Lost" can maintain
momentum even in such a long break. In fact,
it's plausible the extended wait could increase
anticipation among faithful fans.
"Lost" creators, according to Cuse, thought
starting in January "would have meant eight
months between finishing the second season
and starting the next one, which (they) felt was
way too long."
What they seemed to forget is that viewers
crave a consistent schedule. Even though "Lost"
From page 1B
Kelly, Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe, but she
kept up a lively tune. Short, squat and sharp as
a no-nonsense kick in the pants, Thelma bal-
anced her impeccable comedic timing with an
endearing world-weariness. If you've already
seen her in "Rear Window" as the drop-in
nurse, cheerfully bossing about an ailing
Jimmy Stewart, make sure to check her out
beside Doris Day in "Pillow Talk": Her alco-
holic cleaning lady dispenses advice for good
health and then drinks Rock Hudson under the
Dianne Wiest - She spent three years as
the formidable D.A. on TV's "Law and Order,"
but Wiest is better known for uptight neurotics,
like Peg, the perky Avon lady who takes home
Edward Scissorhands, and Holly, the most
fatalistically insecure of the three title siblings
"We're going on a three month vacation. To a sunny island. Please don't forget us."
would have be off the air for eight months, once
it came on it would play weekly for five months,
allowing for viewers to make the show a habit-
ual, ingrained hour of their week.
By splitting up the season, ABC has trans-
formed one of its most popular shows from a
viewer's reliable friend to an unpredictable
lover. Even though the quality of television's
writing and production value has become more
akin to film, it will never be the event enter-
tainment movies are. Television will always be,
in some part, the medium of comfort entertain-
ment. By inhabiting the same hour each week,,
a show becomes part of the fabric of viewers'
weekly schedules. This reliability is essential
to the success of any television show, especially
a serial style series like "Lost."
It has been speculated, however, that the
move to break up the season was actually a
ploy to gain future viewers. With the first six
episodes of season three streaming for free on
ABC.com and the previous seasons released on
DVD, producers may have felt that potential
viewers needed time to catch up before releas-
ing a spree of new episodes.
in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters." A
devotee of stage as well as screen, Wiest prob-
ably needed little stretch to play the grande
Broadway dame of Allen's "Bullets over Broad-
way," but she's one of the movies' premiere the-
ater divas anyway.
Jennifer Tilly - She can do a squeaky moll
accent to such ice-breaking perfection that
you want to reach onto the screen and strangle
her -- witness her nails-on-blackboard squeal
in the underrated "The Cat's Meow" as arche-
typical gossip-columnist Louella Parsons.
But though she puts that voice to good use for
big-name productions like "Monsters Inc."
and "Family Guy," Tilly's wider acting range is
mostly relegated to the indie-movie circuit and
studio C-list "Bride of Chucky" fare. It's a waste
for such a certified risk-taker - and I don't just
mean her no-holds-barred performance as Gina
Gershon's lover in the Wachowski brothers'
Tilly has also spent the last few years chan-
This seems ludicrous as well, since a lon-
ger wait would allow more people a chance to
catch up on what they've missed. Once the sea-
son started, viewers would be able to stay on
track through the online version of the show
and breaks would be unnecessary.
But in the end, the drop in ratings for "Lost"
may signal a creative drought rather than
scheduling issues. Many have complained
that the show poses far more questions than it
answers. It's interestingto note thatcompetitor
"Criminal Minds" features a fresh issue each
week that's resolved within the hour. Could it
be that frustrated "Lost" fans are only continu-
ing to watch because they've already invested
so much time?
To make things worse, there have also been
rumblings that the recent cliffhanger was less
than groundbreaking. The uninspired end-
ing, combined with well-reviewed replace-
ment "Daybreak" may spell out the premature
demise of one of television's most lauded pro-
grams. It remains to be seen whether ABC's
plan succeeds in wooing back an audience it
has already begun to lose.
neling her acting chops into her poker game,
where she's managed to rack up some previous-
ly unheard of celebrity victories on the World
Tilly, by the way, now dates fellow poker
player Phil Laak, known affectionately by fol-
lowers of the tour as "The Unabomber." Tilly,
accordingly, has been dubbed "The Unabomb-
shell," for truth be told she's a knockout in
her own right. If you're putting aside talent in
assessing Hollywood favorites, put aside Alba
as well - how can it be, in this unapologetically
image-driven industry of magazine covers and
red-carpet entrances, that anyone with such a
nickname still hasn't blown up?
- MacDonald can be reached
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