I never had much time for Beck. I found Mellow Gold to be an unfocused, sprawling mess and after initial enthusiasm, the smart-alec aspects of Odelay left me cold. A gifted songwriter, but one that needed to find his true sound. Then he released Mutations, supposedly a collection of demos, and it has redefined him in my eyes as some kind of cosmic country cowboy, mixing beats and breaks with acoustic guitars and his uniquely jaded, mournful voice.
Cold Brains is better than anything from the patchy Odelay album, while Beck's sorrowful laments (Nobody's fault but my own, We live again, O Maria) are beautifully conceived and delivered ballads. Even the up-tempo tracks such as Cancelled Check and Tropicalia are played in a similar style that owes equal debts to the alternative country movement and the psychedelic rock period of the late 1960s. Sitars and flutes drone in the background - there's even a marimba on a couple of the tracks - but the influences gel together perfectly into a unique and consistent musical blend that suits his vocal style and songs perfectly.
I'd rate this as Beck's best album, though Sea Change is equally good if bleaker and a little less experimental. If you want to see what the fuss is about, or if you were put off by his hit and miss studio albums, give this a try and you may see things very differently.