Under Review: Steve Mason – Boys Outside

If the name Steve Mason doesn’t sound familiar, then perhaps Mason himself has gotten what he wanted.  Since the breakup of Brit-tronic heroes The Beta Band in 2004, Mason has recorded under a number of different project names.  First was King Biscuit Time, then Black Affair, both of which yielded one album and a few EPs each.  Mason’s latest album is the first credited to his own name, and if Boys Outside is meant to be taken as a solo debut, then it does that job very well.  Fans of The Beta Band’s lush and experimental atmospheres will find Boys Outside to be instantly enjoyable, with “Understand My Heart” kicking off the disc with a groovy, ghostly refrain.  Many of the songs on Boys Outside feature Mason’s trademark slow-building arrangements, and they’re used to greatest effect on “Yesterday” and “All Come Down.”  Sonically speaking, Boys Outside features the same basic elements on each tune: an echo-y piano, a delicately-picked guitar, some programmed drums and Mason’s ethereal voice right up front.  Though the songs do indeed run into one another, the result is more like a cohesive song cycle than a record bereft of ideas.  Split between Mason’s recordings and those of The Aliens, the dual legacy of The Beta Band is a tricky one to follow.  The Aliens, who count the three other Beta Band members in their ranks, explores the former group’s sprawling psychedelia, often to mixed results.  Mason’s recordings, Boys Outside included, stay in the darker, more introspective regions.  It’s a funny thing, if you think about it, since Mason’s numerous pseudonyms suggest a desire to retreat from the spotlight.  Boys Outside is an incredibly personal album and, as such, is one of the best to come from the ex-Beta Band camp.  The cool flow of the new songs betrays a newfound sense of relief on Mason’s part, and it’s no surprise as to why.  Artists love to create alter-egos and mysterious projects, it’s true, but those same artists often make their best works when they’re just being themselves.


~ by E. on July 28, 2010.

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