Pop Talk: Beck to the Future…
I remember hearing Loser just before Spring Break in 1994. It was a bass heavy ear bug sung by a mush-mouthed genius, and I wasn’t the only one who rewarded his smart-ass anthem to self-evident nerds everywhere.
I played it for my then fiancé along with another cool song I found called You by Candlebox. Jennifer much preferred the funny and random Beck song to the layered and emotional You even though I maintain that it remains one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded by a relatively underrated band.
We’ve picked up Beck’s albums over the years and they’ve been hit and miss for us. His 1996 record, Odelay, which sponsored a few big hits for him (Where It’s At and The New Pollution) was a fantastic follow-up to his debut, but then he lost us for about a decade.
Sure, we got his other CDs, including his weird little quasi-blues album, but they never lasted long in the car, and were traded for the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Presidents of the United States of America.
His 2005 album, Guero, got Jennifer’s attention and with songs like Black Tambourine and Go It Alone, I was on board at once. We were even treated to a re-mix album, Guerolito, later that year and it was almost as good as its predecessor.
He released his most intriguing record less than a year later. For starters, The Information has a do-it-yourself album cover and booklet. The CD comes with blank pages and a wildly inventive sticker sheet that you may use to design your own album. (I wish I had this one on vinyl).
This would be a great gimmick, but since the music is progressive and fun, it becomes epic art. Beck finally manages to get all his personalities to play on the same tracks, and the result is not the jumbled mess that one might expect, but a harmonious and whimsical journey through funky and fragile pieces. One most noteworthy, a three movement opus called: The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton, is a song that would fit in on the AWOLNATION album, Magnetic Symphony.
I was actually working at a radio station when his next album came out. It was only two years later, (2008) and I played three songs liberally even though none of them made if far up the charts. Modern Guilt is a funk friendly introspective album and the trio of tunes, Youthless, Walls and Soul of a Man, are some of the finest songs Beck has ever penned.
Then he took six years off…
Like from 2008 to 2014…off…
We picked up his latest album, Morning Phase, and it’s surprisingly beautiful. Gone are the silly lyrics and the bass heavy riffs. This record is filled with strings and samples of birds chirping. It’s soothing and so startlingly sure of itself that I hardly miss the old Beck at all. (Rumors say that side of him is far from buried and he’ll actually have a more Beck-ish album out soon).
Morning Phase is a concept album for sure, but it’s quite nice late at night (in the bedroom) as well. One song blends into the next in a tapestry of dream fueled images that make me feel like I’m back in a time when music was the mood altering drug of choice.
Though not as good on a road trip as Odelay, Beck’s newest (and only) offering in six long years is ultimately worth the wait. Now that I hear it, I see that he had to go get inspired by Iron and Wine first, and that’s just fine with me. I like profound songs that don’t try too hard, yet include a modern touch. Not many artists can hit all those points at once but I only need a few. Having said that, I hope he really does come out with another album soon.