For my second review, I am doing Modern Guilt by Beck. It should be stated here that I am already an admitted Beck freak, so my opinions will either be enhanced or tainted by my preexisting devotion to his artistry. The album came out a week ago, and I have been holding off on listening to it so that I could do a proper, pristine, unadulterated first-time review...and waiting that week was no small task.
Here we go.
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:27 – love the beat…anyone who has heard Danger Mouse’s stuff will recognize his signature low-fi gritty drums here.
:44 – Beck can layer his voice as many times as he wants as far as I’m concerned, though here he only layers two tracks of himself…he must be depressed again.
1:09 – the song has quickly made itself into one I feel like I have been listening to for years. Instant mixtape fodder.
1:50 – shades of Wilco in the bridge.
:06 – beat takes you to the beach, on a flowered blanket with Annette Funicello.
:32 – “…ice caps melting down,” my dad stops listening here, believing that Beck is another cog in the Democrat Death Machine trying to sell us “the hoax” of global warming.
1:00 – my brains aren’t that bored.
2:13 – gotta hear this tweaky little breakdown on your headphones, because there is too much going on that you might miss.
2:40 – Gamma Ray evokes countless mortals rendered superheroes by accidental doses of radiation, but Beck has something else in mind here. Here, we are all so obsessed with our technology that we don’t see that we are actually killing ourselves. “Your brains are bored, like a refugee from a house that’s burning.”
:07 – Pet Sounds anyone? I don’t see Brian Wilson’s name in the credits.
:41 – there went Pet Sounds.
1:02 – Danger with his crazy fast drum rolls…wait a minute, credits say that Danger isn’t on this track. His influence runs deep on this album, even when he steps out.
3:02 – not my favorite so far…a bit too wispy and echoey for me. Lyrically, it’s another anti-global warming moan, with a dose of anger, musically.
:25 – Beck feels things?
:56 – more cool surf guitar sparsely decorating the background, kind of reminds me of Honest Bob and the Factory to Dealer Incentives (yes, I only know them because of Guitar Hero.)
1:59 – He went from feeling uptight in the beginning to feeling afraid, and I can’t figure out what caused it…probably global warming again.
3:03 – you love the beat the more you hear it.
:10 - bass-heavy riff.
:56 – coolest echo effect yet, Beck singing to himself across the Grand Canyon…about something most of us don’t understand.
1:18 – line of the album so far: “need a teleprompter for my life, need a pipeline to the night.”
1:59 – you keep waiting for the song to pick up and find it’s natural beat, and it never does, it keeps on with the trotting, halting rhythm that sort of leans you forward for the whole song.
:29 – AABB rhyme scheme feels a little bit elementary.
1:10 – the drums sound like they’re being played by a big band from the 1930s in some huge dance hall, which is a good thing.
2:06 – pretty short song, bonus lyrics at the end not listed in the booklet, “You wearing all of the years on your face, until your tombstone’s running the place, and your heart only speaks with a murmer, but your words frame your nachos like murder.” (red=likely wrong.)
:12 – ummm, messy stuff here. All dissonance and atonality.
:44 – vocals bleed into themselves, so much that I forgot to look at my liner notes to find out what he is saying, I think I forgot he was saying anything at all.
1:19 – “and when this replica begins to look cheap, I’d throw it out but it’s home to me.” Our lives are a hollow shell of what they used to be, but we are too comfortable in our misery to trade it out for anything.
1:48 – “build it up, build it up.” We try to drown out our dissatisfaction by getting more things. Materialism alienates us from ourselves, “it’s so unreal, it’s all I need.” Which explains why I have an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a Wii.
3:23 – outstanding symphonic outtro, probably so pleasing because it brings dissonance and beauty to an otherwise industrial and unattractive song. Did he do that on purpose? Is he trying to get me to sell my 360? No deal.
Soul of a Man
:10 - gritty beefy bass riff, reminds me of The Doors.
:53 – knee, clap, knee, clap chorus beat feels like a Queen stadium anthem…or maybe it’s Pour Some Sugar on Me.
1:09 – tiny bass guitar solo has me visualizing those freaky red muppet guys from The Labyrinth who took their heads off and threw them around with David Bowie. Plus Jennifer Connelly was hot.
2:34 – last couple of bars made me think of some plodding Joan Jett bar brawl beat, but with more sonic meddlings in the background.
:36 – excellent beat, excellent rhymes, and I know it has a sound that nobody I am close to would ever want to listen to. It’s the kind of song that will invariably incite my wife to abruptly turn off the radio in the car, because “it’s stressing her out.”
:50 – he has gotten back to his “Satan Gave Me a Taco” roots by spouting out incomprehensible lyrics like, “with your lingo coined from the sacrament of a casino, on a government loan with a guillotine in your libido.” Awesome. “no wait,
1:42 – these drums would be a nightmare on Rock Band. My right calf would be balled up behind my knee before the song was over.
2:50 – cool acoustic accent for the outtro.
3:41 – and…a nice matrix voice modulation for good measure.
:24 – great, plodding beat, sort of like “Where It’s At” and “Go It Alone.”
1:15 – “I’m tired of evil, and all that it feeds, but I don’t know.” I know I don’t like things that are bad, but I can’t tell what’s bad anymore. True, true.
2:17 – spooky ghost chorus oohing in the background adds to the atmosphere of brooding and mystery.
2:55 – note to self: if you ever write a song, be sure to cut out the music completely, at least for a couple of seconds, because it always sounds important and mature.
3:48 – “I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I’m going, to that volcano. I don’t want to fall in though, just want to warm my bones, on that fire a while.” I don’t really want to die, but I really want to think about death, because it reminds me that I am still alive. Nice ending.
Worthiness quotient: Immediately Sansa-worthy, based solely on the name of the artist. I suspect it will stand the test of time, however, and firmly implant itself in my rotation for months to come.
Highlights: Orphans, Gamma Ray, Modern Guilt, Walls
Final Thoughts: I love Beck, so reviewing this album was almost a technicality for me. He has gone through so many styles and changes in his career, it is impossible to predict what his next effort will be like. This one manages to blend his quirky lyrical style with DJ Danger Mouse's decidedly grainy brand of hip hop. They definitely feel at home together, though I think I like his collaborations with the Dust Brothers and Nigel Godrich. Overall, Modern Guilt fits snugly somewhere between Odelay and Guero on the Beck quality spectrum, a scale on which the vast majority of today's bands would not fall stiffly at the bottom. He excels at creating catchy, quirky, thought provoking music, and this album, though a tad bit preachy, is no exception.