Steve Mason Boys Outside

Steve Mason Boys Outside
The former Beta Band front-man has ditched the King Biscuit Time and Black Affair handles and issued a solo album that exposes his damaged core. Bringing in electro pop wizard Richard X (Annie, Kylie Minogue) is one of the unlikeliest of choices to help Mason shape an album devoid of carbonated pop hooks and punchy beats. Instead, Boys Outside is the exact opposite of what X has based his career on, acting more like the kind of come down album that would follow Primal Scream's Screamadelica, ideally in an iTunes queue. The melancholy emanating from Mason (he has admitted to considering suicide) isn't exactly a departure from what we remember with the Betas; it may lack the silliness of naming an album Hot Shots II, but his soft-spoken tones were always there, no matter the content. But Mason has stripped down his past tendencies to dabble with layering tracks and for most of Boys Outside, relies on a lone piano or guitar to slump over to deliver a line like, "I lost my way when I jumped in the river" while X programs a subdued acid house beat. Despite failing to give us the most improbable pop star this partnership initially suggested, there's no denying Boys Outside is an exquisite album bent on using Mason's sadness and emotional frailty to produce something positive. (Domino)