Thursday, April 14, 2005

Up in Your Guero: New Guest Columnist Greg Smyth Reviews Beck's Latest

Comrades and mamacitas,

The stable of all-star guest columnists has just gotten larger. Greg Smyth, a stellar music writer who hails from England, will be providing his eclectic and hipsterized take on all things music right here at the mighty mighty DB.



Ignore everything you've read so far about this album: Guero is not a return to the "glory days" of Odelay. And nor should you want it to be, because, despite what a plethora of slavering rock hacks would like to think, Beck is exactly the wrong sort of person to want to rehash an excellent previous album. As if you needed reminding, Beck Hansen is the eclectic genius who brought you everything from the slacker jams of Mellow Gold up to the unfairly maligned melancholic brooding Sea Change via the neo-funk Prince-isms of Midnite Vultures. Beck has always been about change and experimentation - why should he be any different now?

It does, however, see the return of Odelay's producers, The Dust Brothers. But where that album was all schizoid beatboxing, Guero is much more a sum of the various aspects of Beck. Like a Best Of filled with entirely new tracks, Guero gives nods to each of Beck's musical personalities: the mellow moments, the slightly bizarre electronica, the samplefests. There's the driving rhythm of "E-Pro," first single and easily as Odelay as it gets, likely to be rocking every indie disco this side of the next decade. "Earthquake Weather" is a sublime slice of tropicalia (or, indeed, "Tropicalia"). Meanwhile, the Casio-tone intro on "Girl" wrongfoots the listener before morphing into a shimmering summer pop anthem that could easily have dropped off Sea Change.

Unfortunately for the music press, this album is not their much hoped for return to form. A superb showcase for his inventiveness and musical catholicism, Guero proves Beck never lost form.

DB Note: Greg Smyth is a UK-based music writer and scientist. Read more of Greg's reviews at Swing Batter Batter!"


Eric Berlin said...

I've listened to the first half of the album a few times over the past week and like it more each time.

I've come to the conclusion that Beck is letting his guard down more and more over the time, getting wiser and more subtle as he goes. He's letting his true vision come out from behind the glam and pose (and great glam and pose they were)... it's like he's being himself, perhaps.

And it's great. "Girl" is an incredibly beautiful, catchy, and intoxicating song. Is there a more perfect song for a sunny California afternoon in the car?

Duke De Mondo said...

i haven't heard this record yet, but still, the only Beck album i really love is Sea Change. such a beautiful, lonesome piece of wonder. the bastard.

Eric Berlin said...

Duke - Have you listened to some of the really early stuff (Stereopathetic Soul Manure, One Foot in the Grave, and even Mellow Gold)?

There's such a great experimentalism at work, a folk/grunge/punk/art-rock thing with a blaring sense of humor that is largely absent from the last three or so albums. I love the new stuff, too, to be sure, but there's something really special about the aforementioned.

Greg Smyth said...

I think Sea Change is such an underrated album. It's brilliant and downright miserable in equal measure. What I tried to get across in the review was that, almost since Odelay came out, the critics have been waiting for him to do Odelay 2. When he didn't, they got a bit shirty and decided that Beck 'wasn't as good as he used to be'. You just have to listen to Lost Cause from Sea Change to see that's plainly horseshit.