Nothing could suit the Beta Band's music better than the truth that their greatest album isn't an "album" at all. The Scottish group's defining characteristic was its overabundance of ideas, and if some of them were half baked, well, that was still a contrast to the stultifying conservatism of late-'90s rock radio. Compiling a trio of four-song records issued over 1997 and 1998, The Three E.P.'s brilliantly establishes the Beta Band's initial sound: a genre-blending hodgepodge of dusty breakbeats, pastoral guitars, monk-like chants, cosmic grooves and oddball instrumentation.
Arriving a year after Beck's Odelay, with endorsements from Oasis, Radiohead and the Beastie Boys, The Three E.P.'s did something still nearly impossible: unite fans of Britpop, indie rock, electronica and jam. Despite a member devoted to turntables and samplers, these guys were at their best when their loping rhythms and hazy textures were met with equally compelling melodies and lyrical concepts — see the twangy, trumpet-kissed reassurance anthem "Dry the Rain," or the didgeridoo-based swell of psych-pop love song "She's the One." Encompassing ramshackle folk-pop, ambient abstraction and even goofy rap, The Three E.P.'s raised the stakes for what pop could be, whether or not the group could ever live up to that potential. For these indulgently generous 78 minutes, they almost did.