Beck: Modern Guilt


For an artist as prolific as Beck-  six proper studio album in the past ten years (10th overall) – one would either A.) be sick and tired of his never going away or B) completely in awe of his continual creative re-inventions.  From the somber break-up hymns of Sea Change, the high energy romps of Midnight Vultures, the Odelay flashes of Guero or the “quasi hip hop” of The Information, Beck’s albums are becoming their own box of chocolates.

When Beck stated early in the year that he was working with an unnamed producer on his next album, there was little surprise when it was revealed to be Danger Mouse.  The Gnarls Barkley creative half has been working with everybody the north side of cool of late, so it was just a matter of time he worked with the folk, hip-hop, funk, and bluesy white boy known as Beck. 

Modern Guilt is only ten tracks/34 minutes long, but immediately the record comes off as the most retro psychedelic recording
Beck has done to date. Gone are the 70’s disco/funk/soul sounds of earlier escapades in favor of grim lyrics and daring sound experiments.  From the opener “Orphans” with echoey voices and piano tinkering, there’s a spacey/apocalyptic vibe on this long-haired Beck version.   “Gamma Ray” is loaded with “ahhs” while “Chem Trails” is the album’s potent-dagger, a trippy soundscape of echoes and drum beats, that lyrically evokes "Eleanor Rigby" as Beck asks, “So many people/Some Many People/Where do they go?”

The title track reflects Motown retro grooves of recent Spoon titles and  those Guero video game sounds appear in the background of “Youthless.”   Chan Marshall (Cat Power) lends barely audible vocals to the surreal “Walls” and Beck steps it up with the crunchy glam metal riffs on “Soul of a Man” and the rhythmic rumble of “Profanity Prayers,” which sounds like Queens of the Stone Age meeting….surprise, Danger Mouse.   Modern Guilt won’t attract too many new Beck fans and after listening to this new trip, that’s fine.
  Profanity Prayers – Beck

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