Sunday, January 24, 2010

Guero - Beck

In 2005 Beck released his 9th studio album Guero under the Interscope Records label. Guero takes its name from the Mexican slang term for "blonde boy". The album peaked at number 2 on the Billboard top 200 Albums. To date Guero sold more than 868,000 copies enshrining the album as an RIAA gold album. In 2005 a limited edition DVD was released with the album that contains bonus tracks and videos not released on the US album.

A quick note explaining my Beck background: I have never been a huge fan of Beck. That said, prior to this review, I judged the entire Beck discography off of one song Sissyneck off the album Odelay. Whenever people recommend Beck they said to listen to Odelay. Based off how much I despised Sissyneck I shrugged off the whole album. Therefore when a friend told me to check out Guero I was skeptical at best. It took me a while to get around to actually listening to the whole album because of my ambivalence towards all things Beck.
I implore you all to keep an ear out to new music, so I took my own advice and gave it a shot. That said this is the first Beck album I have listened to in it's entirety so the scores will reflect that this is my first time hearing a Beck album in it's entirety, so there will be no comparison to other Beck albums. Score and breakdown below.

Score 28.5 /40

Sound 8 - If I were to summarize the sound of Guero in one word it would have to be "groovin". From E-Pro to Emergency Exit Beck's album Guero is well polished. Every sound has its place and for the most part they mesh really well together. The opening song E-Pro (a close second for favorite song on the album) starts with a dirty blues guitar that throws the listener into the music. The guitar stops when Beck starts singing (talking?) and rejoins the band for the rousing chorus of "Na-Na-Na". I am not going to shit on the use of "Na-Na-Na", I love it.
The next song on the album Que Onda Guero, which Wikipedia says means "what up white boy" or What up Blonde Boy". Emulates sounds from latin streets. To get this effect Beck has a bunch of guys yell in spanish on the track, has some sirens going off, cat calling, the sound of cars ect. All these noises come together underneath a really solid beat and really place this track on a into an environment.
Missing is my least favorite song on this whole album. It's not a bad song, I just hate the wood block. It plays for the entire song and drives me crazy. It is buried in the background but when you listen to this album with a solid pair of headphones you'll hear it. It might not annoy you, but I find it maddening.

Musical Ingenuity 6 - When reading what other people have to say about this album, the most common thing I hear is that it is an attempt by Beck to return to the glory of Odelay. I have never listened to Odelay so I have nothing to say on that point. Guero isn't going to blow your mind, its not a particularly innovative album, but it is well polished and the sounds go well together.
The aforementioned Que Onda Guero, is creative. Beck does a fantastic job of placing this song into the moment.
Broken Drum is really out of place on this album. It sounds like it was written with a completely different concept than the rest of the album. When it comes on, I always figure my itunes somehow got on shuffle and I am listening to a different artist.
Farewell Ride is really good. I am sure that it has been used on TV more than once, google it and let me know where in the comments. The music on this song really illustrates the end of the line, you hear it and think "alright, this is over". But it's not. There are two more songs, they aren't bad, but you would think a song entitled Farewell Ride would end the album.

Lyrics 6.5 - I liked the lyrics on this album. Once again, they don't blow me away but they're fun. Beck's vocal style on Guero utilizes more speaking than singing. You'll get a couple of vocal melodies, but they are usually preceded by a fast sting of spoken phrases. On Missing Beck does sing for just about the entire time, but that fucking wood block. Hell Yes which is my favorite song on the album is pretty much all spoken. A lot of the lyrics don't make sense, for instance:

Looking for my place
On assembly lines
Fake prizes
Risin out of the bombholes
Skeleton boys hyped up on purple
Smoke rings blow from across the disco
Bank notes burn like broken equipment
Lookin for shelter readjust your position
Thought control ghost written confessions
Two dimensions dumb your head down
Duck don't look now company missiles
Power is raunchy rent-a-cops are watching
Makin their dreams out of paper mache
Cliche wasted hate taste tested

I have no idea what that means, nor do I care. It's fun.

Approachability 8 - Take this one with a grain of salt folks. If you hadn't noticed its been a little while since my last review. I originally gave this album a ten on approachability, then when I started writing this review gave it a nine and now I am at eight. Why the change? Well readers, I listen to these albums before I review them, maybe a bit to much. I have listened to this album so many times because honestly, I've been avoiding writing this review. I liked he album a lot, but it isn't an album that I want to listen to for a while. I don't want to be disingenuous in these reviews, so I kept putting it off until I really wanted to write this.
A friend described this album as having "some seriously crunchy grooves". Truth, great groove album. However after listening to this album quite a few times, I am growing sick of it. Which is where the points are lost. E-Pro really makes you want to keep listening, but the songs between Girl and Hell Yes end up running together. After Hell Yes the song placement gets funky but not in a good way. Hell Yes is followed by Broken Drum which ruins the potential for 49 minutes of total groove. I would certainly recommend this album as a solid listen every once in a while, but after a couple days of listening to it you're ready for a break.

Favorite Track: Hell Yes

Overall: 28.5/40 I will eat my words about Beck. This album was really fun, a great car album with some really good grooves. A lot of other review sites are ready to throw Guero out as a desperate attempt to return to the glory of Odelay. I think that's a bit to harsh. I haven't listened to all of Odelay but after listening to an entire Beck album I went back and gave Sissyneck one more shot, this time with an open mind. It's still not one of my favorite songs, but I can't say that I hate it as much as I used to. Beck isn't going to blow your mind away with his music but if you're looking for a solid, well polished, groovin album then Guero is for you.

Next Review: Contra - Vampire Weekend OR Rebirth - Lil Wayne
Stay tuned to see which I do.

PS: I am sorry for the abnormally long period between these two reviews. I started listening to this album right after I finished Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a week ago this was a 33 point album. The delay hurts the reviews but I think it also gives me a better chance to listen to the album and hear whats actually going on. I'll try to keep the time between posts down, but keep on checking and post comments. Peace out folks.

Keep Rocking.

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