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Mutations is laid-back country and folk for the most part, and contains Beck's most sad and moving song to date. 'Nobody's Fault But My Own' paints a beautiful portrait of a vulnerable soul; all resignation and wistful longing set to a lovely Eastern throb. Even the single 'Tropicalia' demonstrates a lyrical mood at odds with the upbeat calypso backing: "Love is a poverty you couldn't sell/Misery waits in vague hotels". By the time 'Runners Dial Zero' draws the album to a funereal close, you have to wonder how Beck could ever be considered an emotional charlatan; there's nothing here but the glorious example of a man creating beauty out of a post-modern malaise without displaying the obvious emotional scars or trite couplets.
Mutations stands as a wonderful album and an essential piece of the strange Beck puzzle.
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.