“I too am not a bit tamed . . . . I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the word.”

peaches and cream
Midnite Vultures

Beck is really coming along. This is highly refined techno-funk-pop. The lyrics are also very good although perhaps not quite disciplined enough to merit ultra high marks. One can follow the trail of influence from other pioneers in pop-funk from Herbie Hancock and Prince to the Digital Underground, the Isley Brothers, and probably countless others I don't know about. Beck takes all these elements and makes his own unique product. The creativity is definitely there, and who can complain about a CD that gives you lyrics like "tutti frutti...automatic bazzuti" However, several critics complain that Beck is trying toŚwait a minute, here, see for yourself what they say.
Beth Massa, official Amazon editor, writes:

When Beck mangles folk, hip-hop, country, blues, and lo-fi rock into a unique sonic species, he pays homage to his influences in a way that is utterly entertaining. Indeed, the alt-rock vagabond is responsible for some of the 1990s' most indispensable music. In his lesser moments, however, Beck's attempts at emulating his preceptors fall flat, creating only B-grade versions of the genuine articles. Midnite Vultures splits down the middle between the great Beck and the not-so-great Beck. About half the album gorges on retro pulp fiction, a "Becksploitation," if you will, where his relatively straightforward impersonations shortchange his influences. On the slow-burn soul tracks "Peaches and Cream" and "Debra" or the 808-driven tributary "Hlwd. Freaks," he lacks the pipes, heart, and history to pass as a legitimate double-breasted soul man or old-school rapper. The other half, finding Beck in his element, is exhilarating. His unfaltering studio mastery is especially evident on standouts such as the horn-punched "Sexx Laws," the steamy, slap-bass-blasted "Nicotine and Gravy," and the wah-wah bombast of "Mixed Bizness." The album proves that Beck playing the straight-up funkateer will never match ranks with the raw talents of Marvin Gaye, George Clinton, or Prince, but as long as he adheres to more inventive genre splicing, he remains compelling in his own right.
Beth, Beth, Beth. While you're right Prince does Prince better than Beck does Prince, I think you're missing the point. Beck is not trying to out soul your precious soul artists. He's just borrowing their medium to deliver his own fresh perspective, which has a lyrical and musical perkiness that distinguishes it from pure soul music. If you can't appreciate a lyric like "zero to tutti frutti" or "Norman Schwarzkopff, something tells me you wanna go home," then something tells me you need to go home, too, and listen again, my little corn flower.

Tracks 1-4 solid Beck-like jam/tracks
Track 5 Hallowed Freaks - splendid lyrics
Track 6 Peaches & Cream- splendid music
Track 9 Beautiful Way - “Such a beautiful way to break your heart” recalls NIN's classic juxtaposition “You're my beautiful liar”
Track 10 Pressure Zone - crisp music
Track 11 - Most people tend to very amused by the last song on the album. I think it's called Debra? Here are the Isley Brothers re-invented for the 00's.

Sea Change

by Franklin Soults:
The reams of ecstatic reviews that followed the release of Beck's despondent Sea Change are all deserved, except for one major caveat: The disc's sea of salty tears is no truer an artistic expression than the wbe of artifice Beck once spun to earn his fame. If anything, Beck's confessional outpouring in these uniquely troubled and uncertain times feels a bit deceitful.

That might seem like a contradiction but then, Sea Change is built on a contradiction: The widely published rumor is that Beck was moved to bare his soul after having discovered the unfaithfulness of his girlfriend, yet the subtle and keenly detailed Sea Change isn't a product of emotional despondency, but rational handicraft.1 There's nothing wrong with that-the albums by John Lennon, Nick Drake, and Alex Chilton that it recalls were also masterfully constructed portraits of helpless despair. But for Beck, this move marks a retreat from a sophisticated level of honesty about his artifice, a level never quite reached by Drake, Lennon, and Chilton, not to mention legions of lesser heartstring pluckers lamenting their losses in coffeehouses and bars before and since.

In Beck's early days, he offered a glorious corrective to the pitfalls of self-pity, transforming the loser 'tude of Generation X into a sardonic badge of pride. But now he moans and mumbles in the style he once half-mocked, sounding like a cross between Eddie Vedder and the frog-voiced dude in Crash Test Dummies. To add insult to his sense of cosmic personal injury, Beck short changes one of his greatest talents-putting surprising words together-for the comforts of banal imagery ('There's a blue bird at my window,' etc). In short, it's definitely worth going to the show to bathe in his flood of tears, but just don't be surprised if the crocodile grins.

1 There is an Eliot essay that deals nicely with this point. Also, girls are always saying they would do anything to have sex with Beck. When they would say this, it would make me jealous. And there was nothing I could do to counter it. 'Oh, well I want to have sex with, uh, Jennifer Lopez.' I know she's hot, but the truth is I couldn't even picture her if I tried. 'Dorothy Parker, so witty, so cute. I'd do her in a second. If she weren't dead.' The point is a guy has no come back to the 'I'd do anything to fuck Beck line.' Until now. Well I fucked Beck's girlfriend and got him all depressed. So there.
Normally, I don't agree with alt weekly writers. But I find myself in agreement with Franklin Soults' comments on Beck's new album. Wait, this font size is ridiculous. Of course, I have not listened to the album yet, but for the sake of argument, let's assume his assessment is accurate. His point about Beck's ability to put phrases together ('automatic bazutti') is well taken, and I share the opinion that Beck's charm was his sense of irony about the whole self-pity thing. But still, an alt weekly column? There are three theories to explain how this could be. 1) the depth of my reasoning with regard to the music scene is more limited than I thought 2) the issue is that simple and it would be difficult to come to any other conclusions 3) Franklin Soults knows what he's talking about.

Which brings us to Coldplay. Their new album seems to me to be a regression in terms of lyrical sophistication and a wallowing in 'lovey dovey' type crap. It's not that they were ever particularly ironic in their first album, but there has been this so-called dumbing down of lyrics. In fact, I might even argue that Coldplay may have been heading in this direction anyway, and it really doesn't say anything other than invite speculation that they had help writing the lyrics to their first album and that that help died of liver failure in a London hospital late last year. As for Beck, one wonders if this is the natural progression of things. I would explain it like this. Beck is a person. Like all people, he has within him the capacity for both poetic irony as well as real personal suffering. A few years ago, Beck felt ironic, and now he is depressed. The reason this doesn't really work is that people don't have these moods on a bi-annual basis. People feel these things on and off all the time. Ah, but an album that alternates between humorous and serious songs would have all the tonal consistency of a Burr Steers film. That's not how people want their albums. The only way Beck could be sincere here is if he were to say he was writing these songs all along during the last five years and has now put them into one album. Otherwise, Franklin Soults is Beck's mother in disguise, and 'something tells me' she wants him 'to go home.' Actually, what's really happening hear is Beck is a bit restless, and he got tired of his own 'ironic' image the same way Jimi Hendrix got tired of people wanting him to burn his guitar. This album is in a way a reaction and a rebellion against his former image. One cannot (without drug use in a category beyond recreational) become stupid. Beck is just exploring and acting out a particular side of his personality. Beck is no more depressed or serious than he was before. If you have to feel like your artists ARE their albums one hundred percent of the time, then your CD collection will be very small. And if not, I assure you you are the one who is being played.


The thang that got everybody into Beck. Try it.

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