Bring On Some Beck
Easily one of my favorite albums is Beck's Sea Change. The album came out in 2002 and proved to be quite a departure for Beck. The music is slow, methodical and haunting. The album is a cohesive unit, just brilliant from start to finish and it can calm you just as easily as it can make you miserable if you allow yourself to become too caught up in it. There's a lot to be said about some of the upbeat, crazy tracks that Beck has put out in his career, but I'll take Sea Change over any other one of his albums any time.
Two and a half years later, I'm very ready for another Beck album. Luckily for me--and you, if you know what's good for you--that next Beck album is hitting on March 29. It's called Guero and I'm more than ready.
As are other people. So much so, there was apparently quite a furor last Sunday evening when the album was leaked online for a brief time. Salon has the story of the leak and some thoughts on the album:
But after the smirk-shattering cataclysm of "Sea Change," you really can't go home again -- though you sure can try. Given Beck.com's emphatic posting (also now removed) that the leaked album was unmastered, unmixed, unsequenced, it's hard to know how much to read into these tracks. If forced, one could classify the 13 circulating songs into those that sound very much like Beck's previous work, like the (perfectly fun) Spanglish hip-hop "Odelay" redux of "Que Onda Guero," and a slightly larger handful that chart new territory between "Sea Change's" melancholy and Beck the Younger's exuberance.
Even without an obvious smash -- or helpful iconic tag for "Guero's" direction -- the best half-dozen of the 13 tracks are healthy babes. On "E-Pro," the first single, a devastatingly weird hand-clap breakdown erupts into an anthemic refrain. The unfortunately titled "Earthquake Weather" (a tentative "(maybe)" affixed to the initial labeling) snakes an octave-leaping chorus over a sultry tropical groove while Beck hones his powers of surreality: "The sky is purple," he sings. "Days are changing/ with the weather/ like a riptide/ could rip us away." "Girl" employs a tricked-out electronic false start before dropping into a sweet, up-tempo strummer.
Like Beck's other so-called party albums, it's a pastiche, though this time out the sources are almost invariably familiar. "Go It Alone," "E-Pro," "Nazarene" and "Black Tambourine" are all built around blues-heavy raps (often with harmonica interludes), direct descendents of "One Foot in the Grave," ("Stereopathetic Soul Manure's" tribute to Sonny Terry). "Brazilica" (now likely titled "Missing") and "Earthquake Weather" both lean on nylon-stringed South American exotica for their mystique. Distorted lo-fi guitars dot nearly every song (especially the B-side destined "High 5" remake, "Chain Reaction").
You'll need either a subscription to Salon or a Day Pass (obtained by watching a short ad) to read the full article, but it's worth it if you're a fan of Beck. The album sounds like it has potential, but probably won't reach the same lofty heights of Sea Change. Still, I'll be picking up a copy on March 29.