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4.6 out of 5 stars16
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 December 2000
The LP that saw Beck mutate back from a funky jackass whiteboy hipster with two turntables and a microphone into a rather sombre countrified folkie. This is a wonderfully performed set of rootsy songs, albeit still with a wilful eclecticism evident (as on the latino-esque Lazy Flies and Tropicalia) and still featuring head-scratching lyrics.

The oddest thing, though, about Mutations is that Beck was at pains to declare it a 'stop-gap' release, when it stands by itself as possibly his finest body of work...but such is the contrary way of the boy Hansen. You've got to love him.
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on 29 November 1999
Where Odelay is for going out, this is for when you get back. Outstanding tunes are the slightly wonky opener 'Cold Brains', calypso single 'Tropicalia', and Deep South folk-blues of 'Cancelled Check'. On second track 'Nobody's Fault But My Own', Beck displays a rare moment of true emotion, and proves wrong those critics who brand him a soulless magpie.
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on 3 January 2000
It took Beck less than a month to record and mix Mutations, and he didn't really consider it a proper follow up to Odelay. And yet, strangely, this album is perhaps the most revealing release in terms of deciphering the enigma that is Beck Hansen. It is, of course, great listening too.
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.
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on 31 October 2002
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.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2008
Mutations is Beck's most melodious and accessible album, but that doesn't mean he's copped out. Beck is a sponge - yet to settle down into a style of his own, but absorbing influences from all everywhere, and fashioning his own versions of them all.
Although the pundits appear to think this album occupies the semi-acoustic rock territory ruled by REM etc, to me it feels mainly rooted in the 70s - think Led Zep and you have the sitar & hurdy-gurdy laden second track 'Nobody's fault but my own' , mix in Lindisfarne's blokiness and you have 'Bottle of blues'. In between you have some pure C&W in 'Cancelled check', bossanova fun in 'Tropicalia', and a waltz Tom Waits would be proud of in 'Sing it again'.
But there are still more gems - 'Diamond Bollo**s' has a wonderful 60s harpsichord intro before diving into heavy fuzz guitars and Dylan harmonica, and the final track 'Runners dial zero' is early Pink Floyd to me.
Beck may be a sponge, but he's soaking up all the right music.
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on 18 May 2007
Mutations is a terrific album. I'm a big fan of Beck anyway, but I think this one was a slow burner. My two favourite Beck albums remain the hip-folk classic "Mellow Gold" and sprawling Prince-esque "Midnite Vultures", but this one is a long term gem. It's so mellow and considered, yet contains plenty of emotion - something that was missing from the last album, "The Information", and also seemed strangely absent from "Sea Change" - Beck's most similar release to this one.

For me, the best thing about this record is the simple, catchy tunes and lyrics that stay with you and invite you to sing along every time you hear it. "Cold Brains", "Nobody's Fault By My Own", "Cancelled Cheque", "We Live Again", "Bottle of Blues", "O Maria"... they are all low-key classics, and there's nothing really like them in the rest of my record collection.

In summary, a very good record that, despite it's melancholy feel always picks me up and makes me feel light.
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on 28 May 2010
This is the second time I have replaced Mutations - I play all of Beck's CD's to death so I have to replace them every 4 years or so. I would like to say Mutations is Beck at his best but he is always at his best. He's not scared to go out on a limb and make an album completely different for the time as is true of this one. When I first heard it it didn't make any sense for the first few listens but then you really get into it - in my opinion this is the sign of a good album as ones that are instantly likeable usually get boring after a short while. Mutations is a compilation of eclectic styles and rythms with Beck's usual million percussion instruments giving each song a distinctive and interesting sound and all with great lyrics! I just love Tropicalia and Diamond Bollocks. A brilliant album for anyone who likes something a bit different.
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on 1 June 2009
Some of Beck's other albums are strung together with a common theme. Odelay has sample-fever, Midnite Vultures has party-fever etc. Mutations is difficult because it is a long collection of individually strong tracks but they all sound quite different from one another, so the change from one song to the next can sound slightly odd.

At the same time, his ability to shift gears so easily brands him as an auteur whose tools and talent are unlimited. With Beck on guitar, his syrupy drawl automatically makes him older and somehow wiser. Mutations is the mark of a musician who refuses to conform to the sound he's created and showcases a breaking out of all toys in Beck's toybox.

It's a slow burner, but that's why CD players have a repeat button I guess.
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on 6 October 1999
Ok how do you follow a ground-breaking album like 'Odelay' wellyou hit us with your surprise punch? We are all expecting the same kind of quirkiness that has become his trademark. Beck this time around gives us a mellower album that we could listen to with our parents. He opens up with 'Cold Brains' which is a great little number that has you singing the chorus on your first listen. This is a relaxed Beck who wants us to hear what be is saying as he struts his songs along some psychedelic music. Most of the songs on the album are going to make you tap your toes but never get you on a dance floor. There is some big country; folk influence such as on 'Lazy Flies' and 'Canceled Check' which you can picture him playing at some truck stop in America somewhere. But in true Beck fashion he never disappoints. There are some great surprises in store for you on this album. Watch out for 'Tropicalia' which was the single off the album.
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on 24 August 2002
Mutations is seen by some as a stopgap between Odelay and Midnite Vultures, but it is his joint best album with Midnite Vultures. Odelay got the acclaim, but Mutations is his best collection of songs. The lyrics are head-turning in the classic Elvis Costello way, and the production (provided by Nigel Godrich), which was criticised at the time for being a giant step back from odelay, shimmers with subtle electronic touches and unadultorated talent. Far from the unlistenable industrial dirge of Mellow Gold, the frankly embarresing rap of odelay, it shows that beck has the songs and he's not afraid to use them. And, it was the first step in his metamorphasis from L.A slacker white-boy rapper, to the fablous disco-soul cowboy of today!
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