Stranded In Stereo: New Release Tuesday: Beck

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Release Tuesday: Beck

Since the age of 12 when the phrase 'two turntables and a microphone' was engraved in to my skull, Beck has been a healthy part of my music regimen. 14 year old Rusty was blown away by "Tropicalia," the lead off single from Mutations, a song of the likes which he had never heard before. Early 20s Rusty will always hold The Information close to his heart, just as much as late teen Rusty will note Midnite Vultures as a perennial favorite. With his newest album, Modern Guilt, he teams up with Danger Mouse to make a record that sounds exactly like everything Beck has done before - and also like nothing he has done before.

Picture the
Guilt ridden opener, "Orphans," as a music video. After some thumping and thudding like a poor man's "Low Rider," Beck's gringo acoustic wipes the slate clean. We find him walking down the street to pick up his date, played by the illustrious Cat Power, who's deadpanning her contribution while applying lipstick in the mirror. Before we know it, we're plugging noses and shimmying to the ground in black and white in the song "Gamma Ray", before the epic "Chemtrails." The auditory version of the last high, the track soars like a latter day "Helter Skelter" with the fades-back-in ending that is total calamity, the drugs taking their toll and life ending. After this, its the title track that could be the afterlife to "Chemtrails" downward spiral; while the drums keep the pace, a faint guitar is sneaking up on a Beck we find walking to the light. And just when you think it's going to explode and flourish, it fakes out, and keeps going for the duration.

Now, if only the second half were as memorable as that first half. There's a dud here ("Walls"), a huge stinker over there ("Soul Of A Man,") and a song that I've been told is even more intense when high than it already is ("Replica"). The album seems to come back around towards the end, with the rave-up that is "Profanity Prayers" and the introspective "Volcano" that would've made
Guero that much better. So what are we left with exactly? Is this a great album? Sure. Is it the best album he has ever made? Not quite. What is most interesting about this release is how by teaming up with someone new in the producer's chair, he can do something he's never done prior by being as concise as ever. Typical Beck fare can run pretty long (The Information for example, with its 15 tracks and near hour-long runtime, made some people a bit leary), but this new found sense of brevity seems to work in his favor. The collaboration of Mouse and Beck might've been something people were salivating over from the second it was announced, but really he does nothing more than help Beck hone in on what he's always made best - that great 3 minute pop song. [Buy Here]

Other releases from today? Some
Abe Vigoda record I haven't ever said a word about. Speaking of Abe Vigoda, I just finished interviewing them and the results will be published on the Stranded main site this Friday.

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