I have decided to start writing album reviews on occasion as I continue to build out the different categories and sections of the site for the future. I plan on overhauling things sometime in the next 6 months to better divide out the categories, and I plan on doing interviews soon as well.
So, I thought I would start this section with Beck’s new album, Modern Guilt. The first thing to note about the album is that Danger Mouse collaborated on the mixing and there is plenty of the surfer rhythms, piano vamps and scratchy 1960 rock snares have helped add that catchy edge that you may or may not be familiar with from the Gnarls Barkley albums. There is a juxtaposition that happens though with what I would call Beck’s post-apocalyptic melancholy sound. I can’t quite decide if I like it but there is a definite tension in some of the songs. Overall, Beck just isn’t the same musician he was when he started out. Gone are the gyrating, hipster-break dancing and eclectic senseless lyrics that once defined his persona and informed his sound. Somewhere around Guero a new Beck began to emerge. Maybe it was even earlier during Sea Change (I liked Sea Change) that a new persona emerged. This new Beck seems to see the world as spiraling down into oblivion. This outlook just seems now to linger underneath almost all of the songs on Modern Guilt. It’s everywhere in the lyrics as well where he muses on the current betrayal of our environment in ‘Gamma Ray’ (“If I could hold hold out for now/ With these icecaps melting down”).
Ironically the song I liked the most is probably one of the most psychedelic and potentially gloomy songs on the album (with the exception of the final song, ‘Volcano’). The song I am referring to is ‘Chemtrails’. The funny thing is, I was so excited to see how Beck’s sound would pair with Danger Mouse, and ‘Chemtrails’ is the only track that doesn’t include any Danger Mouse loops. However, my second favorite song that I mentioned earlier, ‘Gamma Ray’, is probably the best example of the perfect marriage between Beck and Danger Mouse on the entire album.
Overall, it is still a melancholy Beck that you are getting with Modern Guilt and if you don’t like that side of him, you may not be into this album. There is enough pick-me-up power coming from Danger Mouse though to carry some of the melancholy into a slightly more uptempo realm, so if you are a true Beck fan then you should definitely purchase the album. It is still heads above where a lot of music is these days and Beck’s years of experience have eliminated a lot of the mediocrity that has creeped it’s way into the now over-saturated music market. Put simply, you could do a lot worse. If you are looking for a reliable album to sink your music hungry teeth into, then go for it.
I have included the title track ‘Modern Guilt’ along with ‘Chemtrails’ and ‘Gamma Ray’ to help you make up your own mind.