The Zodiac, Oxford
25th September 2005
Previously a side project, King Biscuit Time is now the main musical channel of ex-Beta Band frontman Steve Mason. Very much going it alone, he’s set up No Style – a subsidiary of Poptones – with fellow Scot Alan McGee to release his stuff.
King Biscuit Time isn’t a radical departure from the Beta Band’s folk hop; Mason’s soft voice and distinctive half-sung, half-spoken pseudo chanting float above dancehall-, reggae- and psychedelic folk-influenced sparse arrangements of scuzzy bass, crisp percussion and choppy electronica breakbeats. The styles vary, from the decidedly hip hoppy recent single, the political C I Am 15, to I Love You, a mellow layering of piano and syncopated bass. Mason pleases the crowd with acoustic treatments of Beta Band songs like Dr Baker, and finishes with a chilled reggae/calypso cover of Anarchy in the UK – a strange juxtaposition of lyrical intent and execution – before playing C I Am 15 again for no apparent reason.
King Biscuit Time comes across as an act that will divide people. There’s very little to criticise: the performance is accomplished, the beats tight, the repertoire varied and the lyrics aren’t banal. However, I think you either “get” it or you don’t – and I didn’t. Mason will attract enough of an existing Beta Band fanbase to keep him afloat (or at least make gig attendance look healthy), but King Biscuit Time might just be too much of an acquired taste (like the Beta Band often were) to really raise pulses. The music is just so unassuming and understated; if it were particularly emotive it would be far easier to make up your mind, but it just meanders pleasantly and confuses. Perhaps if Mason had more material – only 12 tracks are played tonight – it would be easier to be subjective.
From Nightshift, November 2005