The Beta Band is the official studio debut album of The Beta Band, released in June 1999 by Regal Records. The album followed the critically acclaimed compilation of their first three EPs titled The Three E.P.’s (1998). With high anticipation for The Beta Band, the band originally planned to record the album in four separate continents, but financial constraints slimmed the recording locations down; however, the album was still recorded in a variety of locations. The band approached creating the songs in a variety of ways, sometimes forming songs from single melodies, sometimes bringing together other strands of music, among other forms.
The album builds upon the experimental nature of their EPs, and is often seen as a particularly intricate, experimental and layered album, with a variety of different influences, sound effects, instrumentation and song structures. Based more around beat and rhythm than prior releases, the numerous different styles and influences incorporated into The Beta Band include psychedelia, hip hop and blues. Vocalist Steve Mason described his lyrics as fitting but without narrative interests. The band also recorded an ambient bonus disc of two long compositions, but decided not to include the disc in the final release.
Upon its release, the band made their dissatisfaction with the album public, infamously calling it “fucking awful”, largely blaming time constraints. Upon its release, it reached number 18 on the UK Albums Chart. Critics were favourable towards the album, although many found the album particularly messy and disappointing after the EPs. In later years however, several critics have found the album to be underrated and have praised its ambitions.
In 1997 and 1998, Scottish-based The Beta Band recorded their first releases, three EPs, Champion Versions, The Patty Patty Sound and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos, which were met with high critical acclaim. After they had signed to Regal Records, a subsidiary of EMI‘s label Parlophone, the three EPs were released together as the album The Three E.P.’s in September 1998, which similarly was met with positive reviews. In 1999, they signed to Astralwerks in the United States and the label subsequently released The Three E.P.’s in the country. According to writer Ted Hedrickson, the band – consisting of multi-instrumentalists Steve Mason, Robin Jones, Richard Greentree and John MacLean – fused musical elements like ambientdrones, trip hop beats and Pink Floyd-style introspective balladry to create their unique sound throughout their EPs, and that these releases “served as a fabulous taster for the band’s self-titled debut.”
By the time of The Beta Band, the group had undergone a successful, quick American tour while having become known in Britain for their live performances. Their gigs typically featured films, a DJ set that they would perform before the show, and quirky on-stage sampling from Mclean. Although anticipation for the band’s official debut album was high, McLean later admitted they were “sure a bit worried about doing an album.” They would later tour in the United States in promotion of The Beta Band.