tue 23/07/2024

CD: Steve Mason - Meet the Humans | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Steve Mason - Meet the Humans

CD: Steve Mason - Meet the Humans

After years of experimentation, the former Beta Band man has found the perfect formula

"Anarchist chess? Sure, what are the rules?"

The thing about having a very distinctive voice is that it gives the audience something to latch onto. That’s all well and good, but it can also mean people find it easier to hear without listening.

As the familiar tones and comfortable cadences of King Biscuit Time and former Beta Band member Steve Mason drift in, it’s easy to see how people could simply think, “Ah, another Steve Mason album.” Which it is, to be fair – but it’s also the rather wonderful result of all his former experiments.

From the Beta Band – the glorious, stumbling and staggering Beta Band, with their moments of ragged glory – to the inspired one-man-band sketches of King Biscuit Time, and his two previous solo albums, ‘experimental’ is a tag that has been thrust upon Steve Mason. Meet the Humans however, is resolutely not experimental. It is refined and honed. He’s done the groundwork and can now go back and revisit old steps, safe in the knowledge that he’s doing so in significantly better shoes.

Having found out what works, Mason has set about confidently stripping back in order to launch a better attack. It’s there in the openly self-referential sound of “Alive” and “Another Day”, through the honest, big-hearted intimacy of “Like Water” and shot through the heartbreakingly tender, zither-like chords of “Through My Window”. Meet the Humans is direct, uncomplicated and beautifully affecting.

It’s also resolutely more positive and upbeat than we’ve seen before from Mason. While not brimming with saccharine sunshine, there is certainly an absence of the overpowering shadows that have been cast by earlier work. “You're in trouble when you find it's hard for you to smile/A simple song might make it better for a little while”, sang Sly Stone. He was right, of course – music has the power to change and transform us all, if only temporarily. With Meet the Humans, one suspects that simple songs are a panacea for both audience and artist.

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