on 22 August 2009
After two albums that saw Hansen subdue his chameleon tendencies in favour of pusuing a sound that was distinctly 'Beck', Modern Guilt sees him back breaking new ground. You suspect that some of the credit for that has to go to producer Danger Mouse, if only because the music here, a dark brew of electronica, 60s psychedelia and pop, bears more than a passing resemblance to his own group Gnarls Barkley. It's a world away from his work on something like Sparklehorse's Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, where he seemed hands off to the point of invisibility.
Further new elements include Gamma Ray's surf guitars, Replica's drum 'n' bass meets Aphex Twin futurism, and Chemtrails squaling Neil Young-esque guitar solo. Youthless is probably the closest thing here to Beck's past, mixing hip-hop beats, lyrical non-sequiturs and a chorus catchier than swine flu.
While Guero and The Information saw Beck juxtaposing a bleaker, more jaded lyrical perspective with his traditional party anthems, Modern Guilt is an apocalyptic vision set to apocalyptic music. The mix of conspiracy theory, scientologist imagery, and more tangible concerns (global warming, nuclear war, existential angst) combine to form a nightmarish vision worthy of Philip K. Dick.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely amazing album.
I originally bought it on download, but I've now bought the proper CD as compressed MP3 really doesn't do justice to all the layers and vibes going on.
Easily Beck's best album since the glorious Odelay. Definately his most accessible. Yes it is only half an hour long, but when you listen to it you don't feel short changed, it's half an hour beauty.
Innovative, wise and most of all you can dance to it.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2009
I had loved Beck's earlier albums all the way until 'Sea Changes', as it was just naff (in my opinion, though i know others will disagree) and then he went toooo much into the hip-hop/techno/electro style and all his music started to sound the same. Which was a shame for an artist the caliber of Beck.
......HE HAS RETURNED!
Modern Guilt is soooo much more like the old Beck i know and love. The songs are simple and there's more guitar involved. It's much more in the vein of Odelay than say...Midnight Vultures or Mutations - and it's great because of it!
If like me, you'd lost some faith in the music of Mr Hansen, then rejoice because although he's on a new label, this is VINTAGE Beck!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A quick glance at his watch and Beck's decided that it's time for a change. Out goes the quirkiness, the carelessness and the charm that swam about in 'The Information' and less recently, 'Guero'. In comes Danger Mouse with his surgery gear in hand, and they've got a record to make.
'Modern Guilt' is not quite the sudden jolt in movement or a shock to the system some have been hyping up. Beck's still the name, Beck's still the nature. We don't have a change in tactics equivalent to PJ Harvey's white dress, doom and gloom movement of 'White Chalk' - with the help of John Parish. Although when ears first came across 'Chemtrails', sinking in heartbreak and reverb, it was more than on the cards. 'Gamma Ray' is classic Beck and classic Danger Mouse, a simple bass riff moulded into a complex pop song due to the work of surrounding musicians. Soothing backing vocals (a regular attendee in the record) appear for the first time and it's about then that we realise the extent of Beck's "transformation".
Pop is very much on the agenda - 'Soul Of A Man' and the sharp and cutting title-track are simplistic, edgy and with a very, very modern edge. Brain Burton, who was only initially brought in to collaborate on one song, has inspired material reminiscent of Gnarls Barkley at their finest. Clocking in at thirty and a bit minutes, it's a futile task in attempting not to remember the jerky 'Youthless' or the bass-heavy opener 'Orphans' first time round. The same can be said for closer 'Volcano' - the biggest shock to the system you're bound to hear on the record. Eight albums in, and Beck might have written his most beautiful song to date. Melody the key, melancholic backing vocals at the ready, "I'm tired of evil /And all the things/ That I don't know" quivers the sleepy-head. Proceedings suddenly become haunting - "I don't know if I'm sane / But there's a ghost in my heart" and 'Modern Guilt' ends on anything but an anti-climax.
Other moments aren't as instant, requiring time but not effort. Chunky drums (looped of course), take control in 'Walls' - possessing one of the catchiest chorus' in Beck's career thus far, all thanks to Burton's production, it has to be said. 'Replica' stands out as the most complex and dysfunctional effort, sitting comfortably and not requiring as much attention and care as the other tracks. There isn't a great deal of variation on 'Modern Guilt' but for a record so short, that'd be all too much.
Beck's still not the entertainer he used to be in the "good old days" of 'Odelay' and the like but he's settled into his new skin remarkably well. Thriving in the less obvious moments, the addition of Burton on board was essential, an ideal companion for a record so clear in direction. Hell, we'd give th
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Like I said above, nearly all the reviews I've read for Modern Guilt have praised it as a return to form, "best since Sea Change", and that sort of garbage. Lazy, lazy journalism, particularly considering I read the exact same things about previous two albums (and bona fide clinkers) Guero and The Information. Where Modern Guilt outshines those albums is in its length, as both were at least twice as long as the half-hour Modern Guilt. That, and the music.
Which is fantastic. For reasons I don't understand, this Beck album took me the longest to get into. Well, of the ones I like. The less said about the boring Mellow Gold and the HIDEOUS Midnite Vultures the better. I was initially put off by how minimalist the album sounds. After about three listens, I was completely and utterly dependent on it. I couldn't do without it. Still can't. Strange that, isn't it? I think the reason for it is that I like the songs, or something.
Seriously though, the songs are fantastic. From the opener "Orphans" to closer "Volcano", there's not a duff moment on here. Plus, not one of the songs outstays its welcome. Once the verses, choruses and bridges have had their moment, its onto the next one. "Gamma Ray" is about the funnest song of the summer so far, "Chemtrails" has some incredible drumming and eerie vocals, "Modern Guilt" is relentlessly catchy, "Youthless" and "Replica" sound like Guero culls, "Walls" could pass for a Gnarls Barkley song (thanks Danger Mouse), "Soul of a Man" is sleazy as anything, "Profanity Prayers" is a super-happy bass fest and "Volcano" is perfect. The songs are as sparse as the artwork, but Beck doesn't need to layer his songs full of washboard solos and Schubert to be great. Modern Guilt's your proof.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2008
The most impressive Beck record since Sea Change, for this genre bending artist has finally produced a record that, rather than land erratically at whatever musical influence echoes his current feelings, is a culmination of all his styles. Melodic folk, post-modern alternative indie, whatever you call it, it's brilliant.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I can't really see what people are complaining about. Beck has spent the last countless years reeling out album after album of quality, thought provoking and truly original music.
Modern Guilt is a timely reminder of the sheer quality of his song writing, yes it's shorter this time but that affords him only track where he breaks out the "experimental"/quirky/frankly not very listenable stuff in 'Replica'.
Frankly the first and last tracks contain everything you need to fall in love with Beck either for the first time or the 500th.
Volcano in particular is potentially his most beautiful track to date and makes me go all goosepimply just listening to it.
I can't see how comments along the lines of "this isn't as good as seachange or odelay" hold any value at all. If it's that era of Beck you like then go back and listen to those albums - or compile yourself a "best of beck" CD - there's plenty to choose from!
These are dark days in terms of the quality and originality of music on offer and this latest offering from Beck is much needed ray of light - a reminder that human beings can still make music that is worth listening to.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2008
'Modern Guilt' has the feeling of an 'in-between' album, although having said that, Beck's last truly great album was 'Sea Change' - 'The Information' and 'Guero' had moments of brilliance, but were incomparible to 'Midnite Vultures' or 'Odelay'.
I think the saddest thing about this album is that its hard to even pick one song that could have been a decent launch single. Its all just... samey, which is a shame.
I've not given up on Beck, because he clearly has talent... but this feels like an album cranked out in his sleep.
on 21 July 2015
This album is very short but it does boast a fantastic title track very reminiscent of 'madness'! Good addition to the beck back catalgue
on 6 December 2009
another great album from Beck, I like everything he does so I am probably not the best reviewer but so far he hasn't astray from the path