Steve Mason

About The Light

Double Six

I miss the Beta Band. Doesn't everyone who ever heard the Edinburgh oddballs' bewitching experimental pop extravanganza The Three EPs?

So the solo career of the band's front man Steve Mason has sometimes felt like a consolation prize after the band’s demise.

Something has happened. While recording his third release Meet the Humans, Mason went from "literally living in the woods in Fife" to Brighton. The 44-year-old found a partner who is now his wife and has become a dad.

The eventual album was half solo, half collaborative and had a bigger more positive sound reflecting an emergence from isolation and depression.

About The Light sees Mason go the whole hog. There is no more working alone, with his band involved at every stage while producer Stephen Street, best known for his work with The Smiths and Blur at the helm.

It shows in the breadth of styles and tempo in these inventive ten tracks which provide a real Eureka moment.

As with the best of the Betas, Mason's dazed and confused vocals fit with a strange amalgam which nods to the 70s, post-rave, baggy, trip hop and psychedelia.

Opener, the booming brass-heavy anti-establishment America Is Your Boyfriend is protest with a knowing smile.

The best compliment you could pay the soaring standout Rocket which follows, is that it is a an epic that would not sound out of place on the Betas' acclaimed Three EPs and the most playlistable tune Mason has done to date.

The irresistible title track has nuances of Rolling Stones and country without ever feeling like it was steeped in Nashville.

While the brassy early album taster Stars Around My Heart and Spanish Brigade in isolation sound like a diversion into a bland retro pop chasm, they like the rest of this offering contain big choruses and fit this glorious ebb-and-flo album which has joy in its DNA.

Walking Away From Love is an earworm breakup song which is more laughter than misery, while the breast-beating The End concludes the affair with the rapturous optimism that the album is steeped in. "Now I know what it's like to love in the end. Don't fear the end."

The playfulness of old has returned and it feels like this really is the definition of his life as it is now.

No wonder Mason has said it "sounds like the first ‘legitimate’ record that I have ever made."

I can now say, 'thanks Betas, hello Mr Mason'. And welcome.

What does Mason say about the album?

“Song writing since the Beta Band had become something I did entirely alone, from the original concept to the full demo and often in the studio it was just myself and a producer.

Although I enjoyed this purist approach for a long time, it really does not reflect who I am anymore and is not something that really excited me. So I decided with this album that I wanted to get my live band involved at every stage to break this cycle, and because I wanted to capture the energy that we produce when we play live shows.

"It’s hard to explain but it sounds like a ‘real’ album. I think that is partly the production, the playing and the work that I did with the band for all those months in our rehearsal room on the South Coast.

“For this album, electric guitars, heavy brass and gospel backing vocals were the brew that I had in mind and Stephen (Street) was fully on board with that plan.

“Stephen did an extraordinary job with shaping the sound and he was everything that I hoped he would be behind the wheel.

"It's a beautiful, confident, positive, angry, loving, and gentle album which once again moves what I do forward. David Bowie said that you should always be slightly out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve greatness, and for the first time perhaps ever, I deliberately pushed myself into that place. Who doesn't want greatness?"