Release Date: Feb 26, 2016
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After the intensity and sheer breadth of 2013's politically charged Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time, Steve Mason returns with his most cohesive and fully realized solo effort yet. In a deliberate step away from the thematic sweep of his first two solo releases, the former Beta Band and King Biscuit Time maestro uncorks a set of pop songs that stand proudly as independent pieces, yet make for an even greater whole. Produced by Elbow's Craig Potter, Meet the Humans manages to distill Mason's lush melancholia and maverick pop acumen into 11 strong tracks that refer to his two decades of recording while delivering something new.
In 2008 it looked like Steve Mason had run out of luck. The Beta Band was over and sadly a distant memory, he was slightly out of step with what was going on musically. His Black Affair project wasn’t as warmly received as it should have been. It looked like he was fading into a cult Syd Barrett figure.
Throughout his many musical pursuits – fronting the Beta Band, King Biscuit Time and Black Affair, and his 2010 and 2013 solo albums – the purity of Steve Mason’s songwriting has never before sounded so beautifully at peace, buoyed by the weightlessness of emotional resolution. Boys Outside and Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time felt like a process of recuperation, at times agonisingly dark, uncomfortably confrontational. But Meet the Humans is overwhelmed by warmth, dispelling the myth that with tortured darkness comes great art.
Steve Mason's third solo album under his own name finds the erstwhile Fifer embracing a folktronica style familiar from those Beta Band days. There's a move away from the man-the-barricades politics that defined 2013's Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time, but sharp social observations can be found on opening track Water Bored. The themes running throughout Meet the Humans are more personal reinvention and romantic reflection than the perils of neoliberalism.
Formally of The Beta Band, here vocalist Steve Mason shuffles through a pop collection that’s sumptuously produced by a musical soul-mate, Elbow’s Craig Potter. The upful, light as candyfloss sound of its first half appears to be inspired by a recovery from depression. Even in the more reflective moments, Mason goes for a rousing approach – Ran Away floating on strings and Through My Window pleasingly crisping up the snow outside.