The lovable Beck of “Loser” goes back to the mixed-up sound of Odelay for his new album Guero. The album is a stark departure from the lovelorn melodies of 2002’s Sea Change.
The record is a rhythmic mix of funky beats, Latin-influenced rhymes and the quirkiness that comes best from this now-34-year-old geek chic icon. Tracks range from the melodious to the downright uppity. The Dust Brothers have rejoined Beck to produce Guero with a truly unique blend of sounds.
The word guero basically translates to “white guy,” and Beck themes the album accordingly. The song “Que’ Onda Guero” is a funky jam that you can’t help but shake a little to, but Beck maintains his deadpan MC style.
The album has an eclectic, yet definitively older, sound. Some of the youthfulness of his previous albums has developed into a more complex, mature quality. In the past few years, Beck has married Marissa Ribisi, the twin sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi. Shortly thereafter, the Scientologist couple had their first child, a bouncing baby boy.
While Beck’s maturity shines, the album still has playful beats mixed with some not-so-playful lyrics. The lyrics, in contrast to the tempo, are mildly morbid. The beginning of the song “Missing” states, “I prayed heaven today would bring a hammer down on me and pound you out of my head.” Not exactly the lyrics of a happy-go-lucky song. Yet despite his youthful glow, Beck has never been quite the jolly lad, but rather a sarcastic solemn soul.
The CD artwork alone is enough to make the album appear depressing. Ghostly skulls and weird, mutated faces provide the cover art for Guero. Many of the songs weave images of death. On “Farewell Ride,” Beck says he does not see kindness or smell the roses; he only sees death in the form of two white horses waiting to take him to his grave.
The little witticisms on this album will only apply to those with a truly twisted sense of humor. The funniest line comes at the end of “Que Onda Gureo,” when a voice coaxes him to go buy the new Yanni tape.
While the lyrics and beats seemingly do not match, the album still sounds cohesive. Well, cohesively chaotic. The standout track is the first on the album, and is titled “E-Pro.” The heavy guitars and catchy chorus are infectiously wonderful. It is easy to find yourself singing the “na, na, na, na, ewww” along with the background vocals. The song is perfect for those car karaoke moments.
The rhythm/lyrics clash works because it is so catchy and new. While popular music is maintaining stale bands that all essentially sound the same, Beck goes out on the edge. His lyrics have emotion, but are hardly emo. His sound has funk, but he is certainly no jam band. He has a talent for rhythmic speaking, but is obviously not a hip-hop star. He stands alone. And that is only to our benefit.
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