Thursday, September 4, 2008

Modern Guilt . . . Whatever!

I have decided that Beck put out his new album, Modern Guilt with me in mind—or at least people with my particular kind of attachment (casual) to his music. That said I think that pretty much anyone who likes Beck is going to like this one to some (or to a greater) degree.

Hardcore Beck fan? I am going to guess you like it, but not as much as whatever you think the core Beck album is. Or, perhaps you think Beck is too clanky/techno/x-games for you? This still has some of that, but I think if you have danced around other Beck albums, this might be the one for you. Or if you are like me and you listened in on those key, ur, popular/critically acclaimed, albums, Mellow Gold and Odelay (okay I have Mutations too), and liked them but weren’t committed enough to explore more offerings, I am going to recommend you head out and pick this up.

First of all, Beck has just simply given us some great songs here that have that cool psychedelic sound set in his signature techno-remix feel. It really makes me think Sgt. Pepper’s. Okay, I don’t mean I think it is the classic that Sgt. Pepper’s is, but it has that feel within a 2008 Beck album and I don’t use that comparison lightly. Let me also say that I am keenly aware that I am often guilty of judging albums by their earlier tracks and as Rolling Stone suggests: taken as a whole, the album's first five songs stand among Beck's strongest work”—so that might be part of my bias.

Now as for the content of the songs, folks keep saying, as Paste does, that this is “
Beck’s darkest record to date.” Yeah okay—can I say Johnny M. Yes, Beck is worrying about aging, the environment, the world . . .but who isn’t. I have to say that I think UNCUT has it just right with the focus and tone of their review.

There has always been a shade of Austin Powers to Beck’s more upbeat efforts – one thinks of “Pay No Mind” and its pastiche video – and on frisky rug-cutter “Gamma Ray” Beck sings of “these ice caps melting down” and the “transistor sound” over Carnaby Street chug and twang, his voice phasing across the track. “Chemtrails” – wait, is he concerned about the environment? – blends plaintive sighing and refrains about “too many people” with the kind of lolloping funk, tumbling drums and driving guitars that Ride mastered on Nowhere. . . . So Beck is finally fun again, and you suspect the person most surprised by how well Modern Guilt turned out is the guy who made it.
For more evidence I give you the title track which has lyrics that capture mid-life angst as well as any, but the beat is just too fun for anyone to get to worried about that.


Lisa B. said...

So very excited to hear this cd--I keep waiting for one of my son's friends to bring it over so I can listen . . . have walked past it about a hundred times, and said to myself, "It's okay, you can wait, you're old enough to delay gratification." However, after this post, I may just be officially done waiting.

Lisa B. said...

One more thing--I think Sea Change is a really really beautiful recording, so if you haven't heard it, see if you can give it a listen--it's one of my favorites. Also, I think Guero and Guerolito and also The Information are very good. Well, I kind of like all of Beck, I guess.