That Steve Mason was in The Beta Band is relevant information for a potential listener to this record, surely. However, that fact shouldn't predispose you to judge his record, About The Light, out on Friday via Domino, a certain way prior to hearing it. In reality, for all the creative anarchy that the Betas unleashed in the studio, and spilled onto tape, About The Light reveals that Mason was always trying to write a great, big tune, even as the Betas sounded as if they were flailing about and splicing reels half the time. Which is another way of saying that About The Light is a great, direct pop album, no matter what you thought of The Beta Band.
Opener "America Is Your Boyfriend" offers up the sort of thing that Graham Parker once routinely cranked out, while the peppy "No One" is more straightforward alt-rock, with soaring hooks and big drum fills. Mason worked with Stephen Street here and, as a result, it makes sense that About The Light benefits from that partnership, with single "Walking Away With Love" a near-Britpop classic, while the title cut is a loose, flowing ramble with hints of both Traffic and late Blur about it. At his best here, like on the tighter "Stars Around My Heart", Mason marries an instrumental confidence with an easygoing charm, the sort of thing that suggests (somehow) a mix of the Beta Band and solo Noel Gallagher. Now, trust me, it works, as most of About The Light is remarkably tuneful, and the sort of release that offers up superb, modern indie-pop.
About The Light by Steve Mason is out on Friday via Domino.
[Photo: Uncredited promo image from Steve Mason's Facebook page]