Most often remembered for a famous cameo in the 2000 film High Fidelity, the Beta Band’s The Three E.P.’s collected the Scottish band’s first three extended play records into one lengthy compilation before John Cusack’s character Rob started the album onscreen. It was already a popular set, its release in September 1998 successful and direct: the album plays the three E.P.’s chronologically. So, when “Dry the Rain” from Champion Versions starts in High Fidelity, it was also a teaser for anyone listening and ready to find the album from the recommendation provided by the film.
A newly remastered 20th-anniversary edition of The Three E.P.’s offers a lively chance to revisit the collection, without the film teasing it, and revel in the originality and style the Beta Band offered amidst a crowded British music market in the late 1990s. In this retrospect, The Three E.P.’s gave and continued to give an inviting foray to what else the band would produce, as well as offer intrigue for the Beta Band and a nice glimpse into the alternative trends against rehashed Britpop or copied Radiohead.
The remastered anniversary edition makes no changes to The Three E.P.’s or adds any materials beyond the original track listing, and this approach celebrates the originality of the Beta Band precisely. Following the most well-known and possibly most accessed track that opens the album, “Dry the Rain”, the collected EP’s Champion Versions, The Patty Patty Sound, and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos, remain raw and unrepentant. While tracks soar and explore grooves and riffs, there is a very insightful rushed quality still present in the music, as though the band had to get this out or risk breaking some undocumented time limit (or studio demands for their 1999 studio release?). This aspect, upon refocused listen in this 20th anniversary remaster, generates a more timeless quality for The Three E.P.’s and the remaster perfectly captures the unique style of the Beta Band’s initial output and potential range without carrying any lingering late 1990s quality.
Each EP on the album illustrated the diverse range of the Beta Band, from the better known first EP of Champion Versions, to the more experimental The Patty Patty Sound, and the quick-paced Los Amigos del Beta Band. The second EP contains lengthy explorations of instrumentation and arrangement. Songs like “The Monolith” and “She’s the One” clock in at over 15 minutes and eight minutes respectively and feature dominant and intensifying instrumental sections. But the length never lends to boredom or disinterest, instead offering an exciting and refreshing range unrecognizable in comparison to popular music from the same period in 1997 and 1998.
A track that represents the range in the Beta Band, “Push It Out”, also opened one of the three EP’s, Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos, but conversely is accessible without similar hooks and riffs from the well known “Dry the Rain”. As a result of the track listing on The Three E.P.’s, the song is buried at track eight. “Push It Out” features a prominent repetitive lyrical structure, sweeping guitar work, and a dominant piano interlude midway across the track. As an opener, the excitement may have been hard to compare with “Dry the Rain”, but as track eight on The Three E.P.’s, the song illustrates the seamless components of the collected EPs. This description highlights the band’s range solely within their songs and in their output, and with the remaster maintaining that quality recognizes the popularity and intrigue the Beta Band enjoyed. This recreated approach additionally makes the remaster unique among remasters; its focus is celebrating the album and passing of time, not in documenting the background or recording that went into the album or the band’s career.
The 20th anniversary remaster of The Three E.P.’s serves as an opener to a series of reissues for the Beta Band and was followed closely by the band’s true compilation The Best of the Beta Band (2005), and a remastered and expanded edition of their debut The Beta Band (1999). The Three E.P.’s remains the gem for the Beta Band, and the remaster continues the immediacy and excitement. Another twenty years aging will maintain the clarity and originality offered by the Beta Band without recognition of its ties to late 1990s popular music and a demanding and saturated music industry.