Beck – Guero
Universal Music Group, 2005
2. Que’ Onde Guero
5. Black Tambourine
6. Earthquake Weather
7. Hell Yes
8. Broken Drum
10. Go It Alone
11. Farewell Ride
12. Rental Car
13. Emergency Exit
Artists, growing and changing. Some don’t do it well. Some don’t do it at all. There are some who keep up, and those are few and far between. Then, there are those who change so much that they’re labeled schizophrenic and stuffed away in a box somewhere.
Meet Beck Hansen.
It’s difficult to think that the same guy who hilariously babbled his way through “Satan Gave Me A Taco” went on to make not just “Where It’s At” but also “Sexx Laws” and that entire weepy Sea Change disc. On one hand, you have a happy-go-lucky hippie type who rambles in a goofy manner. On another hand, you have a complex artist who likes to create masterworks of things that take years to truly understand. Then you reach out and find yourself four more hands, someplace to set the bossa nova fan, the aging love-lorn man, the blues fiend, and the lounge singer.
Fans of Odelay would likely be the most ecstatic to hear that Beck has teamed up again with the Dust Brothers for Guero. After all, he hasn’t touched anything remotely like Odelay with a ten foot pole since he was showered with acclaim and awards for all the loveliness within. Why? To prove he’s not a one-schtick pony? Who knows, because it’s what people have been dying to hear. Even with the varied sects who appreciated every last drop of his works since then, it’s the mainstream that has missed him most.
Are there really all that many similarities to his award-winning disc? Well, it’s arguable that “E-Pro,” the first single, has amazing parallels to the opening cut of Odelay, “Devil’s Haircut.” One can also find a similar random track of rapping weirdness in “Hell Yes” that points a finger at “High 5 (Rock the Catskills).” While we are continually treated throughout the disc to great mixing and fun beats from the Dust Brothers, there remain distinct separations from Odelay that bring Guero into its own.
The biggest note would be “Girl,” a tune of unadulterated, beautiful, rockin’ pop. There’s nothing easier to visualize than this baby blasting from radios of cars across the summer landscape — hopefully, this will be encouraged. “Girl” is far from the only noteworthy track on the album, however. “Que’ Onda Guero” captures the lighthearted, latin-rhythm fun for which Beck was known since the days of Mellow Gold; while he’s not singing of being a loser this time around, he has no issue pointing out he’s just a “white boy.” The listener is treated to some funky rhythms with “Black Tambourine,” and “Scarecrow” again works to erase the downtrodden Beck from our memories with a laid-back attitude of cool.
Other than those stellar highlights, there are much more subtle hints of goodness that remind the listener that Beck has grown up and will never be a “Loser” again. “Missing” and “Earthquake Weather” show what the latter experimentations of Beck can create when he brings the Dust Brothers back in to make ’em more palatable for the mainstream; “Go It Alone” and “Rental Car” are both different yet completely invigorating, spicing up any possibilities that Beck could ever think about forgetting he’s an artist before he’s a star.
The downsides to the album — and I have been searching high and low — is it too derivative of Odelay? Is it too varied and obscure for its own good? Is it art for art’s sake? While there are some songs that seem to be more filler than others, plain and simple, this is the Beck that has always existed. He’s playful, he’s serious, and he’s just plain strange. Above all, he’s non-compromising while still churning out great, great music. Few “arty” type musicians can do both with skill, and it’s refreshing to see that not only can Beck pull it off, but he does it with style.