Black Gold – King Biscuit Time

Label: Poptones

As regrettably understandable as the reasons for the Beta Band’s premature retirement were (namely years of banging their creative heads against the wall – and not just in order to get the right percussive sound out of a patch of plaster), it’s hard to see the ultimate wisdom now. Steve Mason carries on under the guise of King Biscuit Time, while John MacLean and Robin Jones warp trippily onwards with The Aliens, neither moving starkly away from the template they built themselves as the ‘Band. Certainly not to a point where they’d reap the commercial dividends that evaded them previously, without the credible brand they’d evolved into it’s the opposite if anything. Was there more to the split? Or was it just misguided, inspired by artistic restless leg syndrome? Does it matter? Perhaps not, because while it doesn’t attain the same stacked heights, ‘Black Gold’ plugs a Beta Band shaped hole in your life. Temporary fix or not.

Mason’s voice was always at the heart of their success anyway, so he still carries with him that main appeal. That groaning, rolling, mossy stone vocal, heavy with gravity, hypnotic chanting foundation rock with dense psychedelic quivers. The songs here still feel built around that monumentally unique centrepiece, from the vocal up, and they sound ridiculously fertile for it. Take especially ‘Kwangchow’ that blossoms up out of a tight organic loop of deep streaming syllables, and ‘C I AM 15’ where the science lab electronics essentially fill in the gaps where his voice isn’t. 

We’re in comfortably eclectic territory, it’s a good snug fit, but don’t take “comfortable” to mean “safe”. If anything it lack’s his previous band’s horsepower, but none of their imagination. Try the following on for size – ‘Left Eye’ is like Johnny Cash’s take on ‘Personal Jesus’ gone understated Mormon gospel sea-cadet marching band.  ‘Rising Sun’ is an I-see-stars tumbling lightweight ‘Ladies & Gentlemen…’ psychedelic drizzling. And the tinglingly numb ‘All Over You’ is The Doors spaced out in broken light, Jim Morrison converted to a brotherhood of monks and behaving in appropriate regimented fashion. He’s now also retracted his claim prior to this album’s release that he was to retire from music altogether. Which is good news, we’ve easily got the stomach for another one of these.

Release: King Biscuit Time - Black Gold
Review by:
Released: 24 May 2006