Heroes to Zeroes is mediocre--with a caveat. For most bands it would be a fine accomplishment. It's just that we have such high expectations for the guys who gave us The 3 EPs and the self-titled The Beta Band that we expect brilliant, amazing, mind-blowing . . . and this album is none of those things.
What it is is a handful of catchy pop tunes and a bunch of inoffensive filler. Much of the album is "pretty," even delicate, with memorable-enough melodies and carefully arranged vocal harmonies on songs such as Assessment, Wonderful and Simple--tracks that sound like the Beatles colliding with the Stone Roses (and I can hardly pay a higher compliment). You can also hear a lot of Radiohead in H to Z--another laudable influence. Unfortunately, the album doesn't sound like The Beta Band. Put another way--this is a highly derivative record.
And that's an odd career move considering The Beta Band already had a cool sound of its own. Missing from H to Z is the weird energy of the band's earlier work--the highly textured sampling, the complexity of instrumentation, the humor, the arrogance--in other words, the originality. There's nothing here to equal the deceptively simple, trance-like beauty of Inner Meet Me or the sloppy genius of Round the Bend and It's Not Too Beautiful. The band just doesn't seem to be taking any chances or want to risk making a fool out of itself, and it shows. Even H to Z's one- and two-word song titles suggest a newfound conservatism, a self-editing move that speaks volumes.
Call it maturity (or God forbid, sobriety) if you like, I'd prefer to think of it as a detour. Hopefully they'll get sick of this safe, almost radio-friendly stuff, this Beta Band-lite, and return to form next time.