Beck’s new album, Modern Guilt, is, surprisingly to me, super awesome. I’ve never been a real Beck fan. I’ve liked some of his stuff here or there, but a lot of his songs and albums seemed a little too much like explorations–his psychadelic stuff not quite authentic, his hip hop stuff a little lightweight, everything covered in a light sheen of irony that made the songs sound like the had “quotes” around them–like, hey, here’s a kind of cool kind of ironic “psychadelic” or “hip hop” song–mostly they seemed like “takes” on types of genres, kind of like he was taking notes and working on a sketchbook, with songs and albums just nods in the general direction of a type of song, a time period, a genre, etc. Like, “I’d love to make a great psychadelic or folk or hip hop song, but here’s a nice little quick pop song for you in the mean time. ”
But Beck has really created a mature artistic musical peak, level, an accomplishment with Modern Guilt. Everything sounds loose, tight, full of effort, effortless, accomplished, purposeful, complicated, simple, authentic, and great. There’s nothing ironic-sounding or immature or undeveloped-sounding here. Each instrument sounds great–and his voice sounds classic in a mature, classic pop singer, songwriter kind of way.
The album ranges from psychadelic songs, where the drums have that great authentic folk/psychadelic breakbeat kind of thing you might find in some Susan Christie, Bonnie Dobson, Karen Dalton songs–the drums, guitars, bass, keyboards have a sound somewhere between Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, the Beatles (especially Strawberry Fields), and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album–lots of mellotron, strings, other great 60s/70s/folk/prog touches, but nothing extraneous or too superficial. Plus there are occasional shades of 90s Manchester stuff like the Stone Roses, which is inevitable since so much of that drew on the same 60s and 70s psychadelic references–especially Ringo’s classic, funky drumming (for those of you that think Ringo was a bad drummer, listen again–it’s a whole different thing Ringo was doing, that you can hear in a lot of funk, hip hop, breakbeat, krautrock, electonic music, etc)–and other 90s and up alternative acts of course. All those years of making songs in “quotations” and experimenting with various styles and genres has finally paid off and gelled into one quite awesome, cohesive album.
There are a lot of touches of Sebastien Tellier here I think, especially the chorus on the song Youthless…that would be a cool show, Beck and Sebastien Tellier…
One of the most interesting things is that Modern Guilt was produced by Danger Mouse! Just today I heard this great Black Keys song, it sounded so good, I looked it up, and who produced it…Danger Mouse! Danger Mouse, you have the best understanding of how to record and produce songs so they sound authentic and real–just like songs did back in the 60s and 70s! Wow, good job dude!!! I’m very psyched–I’ve always wondered, “Why don’t people record songs in a way that sounds totally natural, like songs in the 60s and 70s, like on Brian Eno, and Beatles, and Led Zeppelin albums? What could be so hard about just recording music that sounds like it’s real and authentic and live?” Hats off to you, Danger Mouse!
Beck–Cold Ass Fasion video (off the Jabberjaw compilation)
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