09 September 2008

Apollo's Awesome Album Areview

Ok sorry for the wait here folks. I've been pretty busy at work this past week and just got the chance to turn my notes into a full-fledged album areview. I also, as you may have noticed, didn't get around to detailing my trip to Louisville. I'll kill two birds with one stone and give you the Cliffs Notes® version of the Louisville trip: bourbon and bad jokes. Ok so that about sums that up now onto the review.

This is my review of Beck's Modern Guilt that I meant to have done last Friday. Oh well shit happens enjoy:

Beck’s latest album, Modern Guilt, is not really what I expected after his previous two albums but then again maybe that’s my mistake. It’s a good album to be certain but it isn’t exactly in the same vein as his recent releases. His two efforts prior to Modern Guilt, 2006’s The Information and 2005’s Guerro, were both classic, happy, dance-y, goofy Beck. Modern Guilt is not happy, only occasionally dance-y, and hardly goofy. Of course this isn’t entirely unlike Beck - give a listen to 2002’s Sea Change and you’ll realize that Mr. Hansen isn’t always the cheeriest chap in Chestershire. That’s not to say that Modern Guilt is just Sea Change Round 2. The two albums don’t share that much in common other than that they aren’t what people were expecting from the guy who gave us Odelay.

Sea Change was an album inspired by a rather harsh break up. Modern Guilt seems to be more inspired by a world breaking up rather harshly. There are images of buildings falling, fighter jets, warheads, and isolation. Even the fun, dance-y-ish (let’s see how far I can take that word) tracks don’t sound as big or fun as most of his work. They sound really good, they just don’t sound like most of his other work and I think that’s great. If I told you that Beck was coming out with an album produced by Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) this probably isn’t the first thing you’d imagine (of course, if you took a long look at some of Danger Mouse’s other work it might not surprise you that much – the guy’s got a dark streak a mile long). There are a couple of tracks where Danger’s influence is obvious, for instance on “Gamma Ray” which sounds kind of like a Gnarls Barkley song featuring Beck (which is really good, by the way). Speaking of the production, I really enjoy how this album isn’t too loud or overproduced. It’s a welcome change from most of the crap on the radio where every instrument or vocal track seems to have been recorded with the boards cranked up to eleven.

A lot of the computerized backing beats on this album remind me of The Postal Service (band, not governmental mail carrier). I’ve been noticing that a lot recently, not just here. Whatever program they are using to create the computer backing tracks (or the whole song in the case of The Postal Service) seems to have become an industry standard and makes a lot of stuff sound the same. I could probably rant for a long while about the problems in the music production industry right now, but we’ll stop that train here before I punch the face of my nice new work laptop.

The first two tracks (“Orphans” and the aforementioned “Gamma Ray”) have awesome bass lines. As a matter of fact this album is full of really good bass lines. That is something that I’ve come to expect from Beck and he has yet to let me down. “Orphans”, aside from having a kick ass bass line, also has Cat Power. She sings back up on the track “Walls” as well. I kind of wish they had given her more prominent parts in the songs, honestly. I didn’t even realize it was her at first until I looked on the track list.

There are some upbeat songs on this album (the titular track, “Soul of Man”, and “Profanity Prayers”, for example). Even those songs, though, sound kind of like Beck on opiates. That’s not a bad thing, people. The only upsetting thing to me is that Beck has an ultra-emo moment in the closing song, “Volcano”; one line goes [I’ve been drinking all these tears so long/All I've got left is the taste of salt in my mouth]. C’mon, Beck.

All in all Modern Guilt is a good album. Whether or not you’re a fan of Beck you’ll want to check this one out. It’s a good sleepy-time album and it’s fairly short (just over 30 minutes) so put it in one afternoon when you’re getting ready to nap and see how groovy Beck is even when he doesn't appear to be trying.


Colleen said...

I've only heard the new one a few times but like it so much more than The Information--what a snooze that was!

Apollo said...

colleen, it's definitely worth owning. i agree that The Information was kind of an also-ran in the whole Beck pantheon, but to be honest it's still loads better than that last Creed album.