Release Year: 2005
It seems like every few years Beck has a major album that critics can’t praise enough. Guero was definitely one of those albums. Maybe it’s because it has some of his most accessible songs for a wider audience. Maybe it was the return to his Odelay like sound that made it so popular. Or maybe it’s because he’s just good. Whatever the reason, this is a great album from Beck full of the weird, catchy songs we come to expect from the quirky artist.
Beck always makes songs you can’t seem to pick apart. His lyrics seem like he’s just stringing random things together that sound cool. But what always stands out is the music, which is the highlight for just about all of the songs. The opening track “E-Pro” is insanely catchy with its dirty riff taking over much of the song. Beck mumbles his way through the lyrics until the simple hook of “Na-na/na-na-na-na/na-na,” which is irresistible. It’s a really fun song that’s just cool in general.
“Girl” is probably the most accessible song on the album. It begins with a simple chiptune that’s so adorable and happy sounding. Then it moves on to some upbeat acoustic guitar music while Beck sings about his “sun eyed girl.” It seems like a nice love song until you notice lyrics like “And I know I’m gonna make her die.” Not sure if he meant this literally (I hope not), but it still sounds kind of morbid. “Hell Yes” has always been one of my favorites on the LP. With the chirping beeps, frenetic music, and robotic voice saying “Hell Yes” the song is a futuristic blend of electronica and funk music. With Beck rapping, it’s one of those oddly catchy songs you can’t help but groove to.
What makes Beck albums so different is the first time you hear them you never know what you’re going to get from each song. There’s never a straightforward clue as to which direction the music is going. One minute he’s doing something hip-hop and Latin inspired like “Que Onda Guero” but by the next track he’s moved on to jangly country western like on “Farewell Ride.” And it’s this willingness to play and mix with different genres that makes this album so fun. He plays around with thumping hip-hop beats on “Earthquake Weather” and he pulls off some smooth R&B on the slick “Go It Alone.” Fun fact: Jack White provides the cool bass groove on this track. He even goes psychedelic on the vintage sounding “Rental Car” which harkens to rock songs of the 60s. Beck is one of those few artists that plays around with so many styles on one album, yet it never feels disoriented or jumbled.
A downfall of the album is the length of most of the songs. It’s strange because most of them are only about five minutes, but when you’re listening to them, they feel a lot longer. Part of the issue for me is on songs like “Black Tambourine” or “Scarecrow,” both of which are pretty awesome, but there’s a point on each where it feels like the song should end. You expect it to, but then it just keeps going either repeating the main riff or the same lyrics. I found by the end of most of the songs, I was bored and ready to move on. It also doesn’t help that there are slow moving tracks like “Broken Drum,” which is great, but travels at a snails pace. It felt like the song was trying to put me to sleep. After a while, I just wanted the album to end so I could move on to something else.
This album is definitely one of the highlights of Beck’s extensive catalog. Not only is it a return to his older sound, the songs are just good. It’s an awesome mix of simplistic and weird and even though he plays around with various styles the album is never disjointed. Some of the songs are filler and feel a lot longer than they are, but most of them are spot on. Beck has always been great at making weird, wacky songs and this album is no different.