Guero – Beck

Label: Interscope

Just for confirmation, ‘Odelay’ was not released last week. This is not a follow up record. That record was released nearly a decade ago and there have been three full releases since, ‘Guero’ being the fourth. That ‘Odelay’ is still used as the Beck litmus test may be representative of that record’s utter peerlessness, but the sooner people realise he is unlikely to ever make another, and has in fact made others of note since, the better. ‘Midnite Vultures’ may not have exactly made him the new Prince, but it was remarkably sexed-up fun without reverting to the clichés a lazier and less prolific writer could have, and proved his limits were still to be defined. ‘Sea Change’ was simultaneously his most underrated and accomplished work to date, full of the slight of hand, gentle richness and beautiful depth that the performance nature of his other records would not allow. It’s too early to say whether, by comparison, ‘Guero’ actually represents Beck Hansen reaching his limits, but it is probably the first time Beck has made a Beck record.  

‘E-Pro’ was the obvious lead-off single, evocative of ‘Devils Haircut’ and ‘Loser’ as it is, but is not representative of an album characterised by a more natural momentum. Between that and its equal bookend, the Beasties-esque fuzzy-electro arm-waving stomp of ‘Chain Reaction’, is the Mexican flavoured De La Soul breeze ‘Lue Onda Guero’, low tribal funk of ‘Black Tambourine’, the Spanish guitar hip-hop and ascending chorus of ‘Earthquake Weather’, brilliant scratch-frilled vocoder-led ‘Hell Yes’, and the achingly beautiful desert mirage of ‘Broken Drum’. It is eclectic, but it doesn’t really feel so in that it is very comfortable with itself. It doesn’t feel laboured in any way, which is initially a bit of a let down, it feels a little too easy, but with expectations out of the way it begins to hypnotise you and ease your pulse down to its level. 

‘Odelay’ comparisons are perhaps unavoidable as this does hark back to a familiar back-slapping stoner-rapping alt-rock Beck, made up of the reference points that made him in the first place. But it is not the same record and does not try to be, so it should not be handicapped accordingly. It has the technique of ‘Odelay’, but it has the pace and feel of ‘Mellow Gold’s onomatopoeic introversion, and the cohesion that his more recent mature forays have thrived amidst. That may make it predictable to some ears, but he still lolls around above the quality watermark that his back catalogue has left firmly etched. As a piece of work ‘Guero’ smacks of Beck at his most fluid and naturally personable, avoiding the positive and negative peaks of some of his previous work maybe, but weaving the kind solid musical tapestry in between that somehow only he could. This may not be a peak, but it is still unshiftably unique.

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Release: Beck - Guero
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Released: 29 March 2005