This may be a somewhat long and meandering review, so I do apologize for that right off the bat. For a quick synopsis; I really like this record and while I think some may interpret the criticisms I have for it as dislike, it's only because I probably judge Beck a bit more harshly than I should. His early records were so impactful on me as a younger man that I still hold him to an impossibly high standard.
This past Saturday, March 1st 2014 marked 20 years to the day that Beck's DGC debut Mellow Gold was released. I was a junior in high school and that record just hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy that was on a major label and putting out a record that was so off the wall it couldn't have been any other time but the 90's. That run of records Beck put out in 1994 (Mellow Gold, Stereopathetic Soul Manure and One Foot In The Grave) put me in a totally different space musically than I had ever been in before.
He single-handedly blew open the entire Pacific Northwest scene for me as Beck was directly responsible for me getting into Lync, Built To Spill, Beat Happening, Unwound, Karp, godheadSilo and many, many more. He never caputured that lightning in a bottle again for me. I was even a bit disappointed in Odelay, but I've kept coming back album after album; year after year.
Beck has changed a lot in 20 years and I guess I just haven't changed as much as he has. What I loved most about those early Beck records is the relaxed attitude of the recording. Hell, he coughs in the middle of the song "Outcome" on One Foot In The Grave. Since then, Beck has become a meticulous studio musician. Often times, I think, to his detrement. In my opinion he has a bad habit of overproducing.
Morning Phase (yes I'm finally getting to the new album) suffers from this over production. The songs on this record are great. Flat out great. Well written, serious songs. But, I think they lose a lot of their impact as Beck crams too much atmospheric ambiance, multitracked vocals and other unneeded sound effects into ever square inch of each song. If the production was stripped down, if the songs were given a bit more room to breathe, Morning Phase would be a complete different, but equally revelatory album.
Don't get me wrong, In general I prefer somber, serious Beck to kind of rapper Beck, but I just miss the spontaneity of his 90's work. I just believed in it more. But again, like its spiritual brother Sea Change, Morning Phase is a truly great album. While Beck has grown up a lot more than I have, it is comforting that 20 years later he's still here for me. He's still putting out records and I'm still buying them. But would it kill him to just sit in front of a microphone with an acoustic guitar and hit the record button once in a while?
Monday, March 3, 2014
Beck - Morning Phase LP