Release Year: 2006
Beck is one of those artists you get or you don’t get. I must fall into the latter category because this album went over my head. I like Beck and the album isn’t bad by any means, but it’s confusing and tiring at times. The songs are interesting to say the least with infectious riffs, quirky beeps and boops, and crazy lyrics. The music is complex and has so many elements you can’t even identify them all. It’s so insane that you start to think the music is what he wanted to showcase rather than the lyrics.
One thing that’s for sure about this album is electronic music and sound effects completely take over. Beck has used these elements in his other work before, but here he takes it to the max. Every song is either completely electronic or features it in some way. At times it may be hard to get into, but it does lead to some interesting results. It seems to work best on the track “We Dance Alone.” It has beeping that sound like a 90’s cellphone ringtone. It also sounds like music made for robots to dance to. It does have an undeniable groove that makes you move, but it gets crazy by the end. Warp sounds, chiming, ringing, and cranking noises are found at this point. It may be weird, but it’s one of the best songs here.
There are quite a few songs where the electronic components are not the focus. “Think I’m in Love” has a cool vintage sounding bass groove that’s inspired by the 70’s. It’s more a mellow song with a 60’s/70’s vibe. The catchy “Nausea” has an intense, dark riff that hammers throughout the song. It appears to start out pretty normal, but after the first verse things get weird. The lyrics start not making sense, robotic sounds take over the bridge and some electronic sounds come in before it goes back to the main riff. I have no idea what this song’s about, but it’s one that definitely stands out on the album.
In fact, I don’t know what any of the songs are about! It may be because I don’t fully understand Beck, but it could also be him being weird. Often times on songs like “Elevator Music” he sounds like he’s rapping, but just takes sentences and words that sound cool together. Here’s a line from that song: “Gutbucket and a bottle of paint/ It’s like the schoolhouse lights will never turn on again/Til the bottom wears off of these high-heeled boots.” What the hell is going on here? I can’t even begin to guess! And all the songs go on like this. There are times when the music takes over the song to the point where you can’t even hear him sing anymore and this makes me think he wanted the listener to focus on the music, rather than on what he’s saying. Or I could be completely wrong and Beck’s songs are just super complex.
If you’re like me, by the end of the album you’ll feel tired, especially by the last track which clocks in at ten minutes. The song “Horrible Fanfare….” has so much going on you can’t keep up. It begins with loud percussion that catches you off guard before all the electronic music takes over. What is cool about the song is that it will use the beat from another song “Cellphone’s Dead,” but this time it’s played really slow. There’s even a point where it sounds like the record is skipping. This song is a mindfuck for your ears. The song would be better if it wasn’t so long. After five minutes you’re wondering when it’s going to end.
If you can get past the robotic music and odd lyrics, you realize that Beck plays around with different styles of music on the album. Most of the songs are inspired by techno or electronica, but there are others that have an R&B or folk influence. “Strange Apparition” has a soul and R&B feel with it’s jangly piano playing throughout. It’s a very upbeat song and actually sounds like something Jack White would play. Makes me wonder if he had anything to do with it.
“New Round” is a very dreamy sounding song like something that would play to represent a starry night. It has twinkling music and a sporadic banjo. Since it’s soft and slow, it sounds like a b-side from Sea Change.“No Complaints” is mainly Beck and an acoustic guitar with some electronic noises thrown in. It’s has a folk vibe with it’s catchy guitar riff, mellow mood, and awesome whistling section provided by the man himself.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. It’s not a bad album at all, since the songs are at least interesting and can be catchy, but it can be confusing. If you’re not a hardcore Beck fan everything may confuse you and it may tire you out by the end of the record. The songs seem pretty complex with intricate music and strange lyrics. Whether this is Beck being a deep musician or stringing together a bunch of words that sound good together, only he will know.