Guero

Beck

Interscope Records, 2005

http://www.beck.com

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/12/2005

First off, Guero is not the "return to form, comeback" album that fair-weather Beck fans and ignorant critics claim. Midnight Vultures and especially Sea Change and Mutations were more than adequate releases from the folkster-turn ironic alternative icon - turn morose confessional singer/songwriter. Like The Beastie Boys, Beck has made a career out of reinventing himself with each album. But Guero represents Beck's first album that sounds like "a typical Beck album," much like Ill Communication represented The Beastie Boys first "stay the course" album.

Guero started a stream of releases from some of the top commercial and critical defining artists of the '90s within a two-month of time (followed by Garbage, Weezer, Nine Inch Nails and the Dave Matthews Band). With my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Guero, Beck re-recruited the services of the Dust Brothers, the same producers who made Beck's most commercial defining release, Odelay. And like that album, Guero is filled with pop culture imagery (Burger King crowns), shoutouts in Spanish and inventive samplings.

What's missing is the obvious "What the hell was that?" feelings you got listening to Odelay and Mutations for the first time. Like The Beastie Boys, one of the problems of releasing such diverse records (almost belonging in different genres with each release) is that when the artist releases something that sounds like their previous work, they get criticized for treading water. Once you get past the fact that Beck breaks little ground with Guero, you can actually start enjoying the album for its own merits.

The album starts off weakly with "E-Pro." The song represents the first of a flurry of "nah nah nah" choruses that Beck drops. The second track, "Que Onda Guero," has lyrics that seem to be too hip for their own good: "Here comes the vegetable man in the vegetable van / With the horn that's honking like a mariachi band."

Things don't look too good, but thankfully, Beck starts to embrace his weirdness with the strumming, breezy "Girl." It's the first song that the listener will find it hard to push out of their head. And it's definitely the catchiest song involving necrophilia in years. "Black Tambourine" keeps the momentum going -- fusing folksy lyrical delivery and guitar riffs that aren't quite country, not quite rock and roll and not quite hip-hop.

Guero starts and ends weakly, making it one of the few albums where the middle section is its strongest element. After a few listens, it still doesn't have the "instant classic" ring of Sea Change (fans of Mutations and Sea Change can rejoice -- producer Nigel Godrich, who worked on both albums, is rumored to be the producer for Beck's next work). Sadly, what Guero needs most is time. Mutations, Odelay and Sea Change are so beloved, it may take a few years before Guero finds its audience. Until then, it may not be album of the year, but Guero is the perfect soundtrack to enjoy a humid, late spring day with a margarita.

Rating: B

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© 2005 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope Records, and is used for informational purposes only.