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Guero [VINYL] Box set
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Beck's brand new album, Guero, is a remarkable addition to an already prestigious career. Guero is being heralded as one of Beck's finest albums and it sees a return to collaboration with producers The Dust Brothers (who last worked with Beck on Odelay). It includes the first single, "E-Pro".
Guero marks Beck Hansen's highly anticipated return to his partnership with the Dust Brothers, and the sound captured distinguishes this as the spiritual follow-up to Odelay. Guero is a lovingly crafted soundscape with few lulls and many peaks. High points include the opening one-two of "E-Pro" and "Guero", both of which are insidiously catchy and smartly humorous; "Black Tambourine", which sounds like a miniature reinvention of the Stone Roses' classic "Fools Gold"; "Hell Yes", in which Beck, armed with vocoder, returns as a great wielder of irony, taking potshots at hedonism; and the dustbowl rootsy blues of "Scarecrow" and "Farewell Ride", adverts for the neglected genre that are strong enough to make a next generation pick up harmonicas and slip on cowboy boots.
As with Odelay, Guero's instrumentation and sonic textures are always changing. Everything is here--from string sections, celeste and organ (courtesy of guest keyboardist Money Mark) through 12-string and slide guitars, bass from Jack White, a good dose of colourful samples, and programmed blips and bleeps that recall Midnite Vultures' best moments.
Beck is a true master of pastiche, but Guero isn't eclectic merely for the sake of it--instead, it's a constantly surprising, ever-revolving creation that looks at Beck's multiple talents through an entertaining kaleidoscope and which, backed by the Dust Brothers' formidable production, is damn groovy. In sum, Guero is what Beck's admirers have waited so long to hear: "Odelay 2". Where Beck will go from here is anyone's guess. --Jonti Davies
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These changes in style continue throughout the album, but they blend so well together because they often maintain a strong rhythm. Missing sees Beck singing more clearly than ever before and the strong bossa nova rhythm is maintained throughout Missing, making the sparse funkiness of Black Tambourine seem a natural follow up. The Spanish sounds continue with Earthquake Weather which also melds hip hop and pop and Money Mark on the Organ.
The terse Hell Yes is funky, but is much simpler than the layered tracks of Midnite Vultures. Christina Ricci's Japanese vocals add charm. The album becomes quite subtle for the next few tracks, but doesn't dip in quality- the epic Broken Drum, the countrified and danceable Scarecrow, the toe tapping Go It Alone and the death march of Farewell Ride. A car engine starts up beginning Rental Car. It starts out quite rocky and then leads to it's amazing, somewhat baroque yeah, yeah, yeah chorus with clavinet. As if it could get no better, you hear Petra Haden's quirky and cheerful vocals. The track stops quite abruptly for the reflective and prayer- like Emergency Exit. The following two bonus tracks, Send A Message to Her and Chain Reaction are pretty different covering 60's pop and folk hop to anthemic bonus noise. Try to get a listen of Clap Hands, the weird hip- hop bonus track for Japan and the Guero DVD.
Guero is an album to enjoy and get a little bit lost in, an album to play to other people or in the car because it's exciting and interesting. The artwork by Marcel Dzama is good too. It might not be a good comparison for Guero, but try to imagine a radio that has overnight been possessed by sharks, Los Angeles, Japan, cowboys, ghosts both sad and happy, game boys, ice lollies and spacemen. Then when you turn it on in the morning you hear a variety that radio stations often promise. It's not like a Beck "best of", but it is very good.
It's quite understated (minimalist production, vocals low in the mix), so it takes a few plays to get under your skin - but once the individual songs register, it just keeps getting better. There's a slow burning groove to many of the tracks - it would make a great party album (assuming your party goers are old enough to look beyond the top 10).
The lasting impression is of subtly catchy tracks driven along by a slow-cooked mix of bass riffs, hand claps and finger snaps, overlaid with low key but tuneful vocals.
Some of the tracks rock (E-Pro, Rental Car), some have a old-timer county twang (Farewell Ride, Emergency Exit), others are almost pure rythmn (Black Tambourine), and Broken Drum is just beautiful, but with the possible exception of the final bonus track Chain Reaction they all stand - indeed develop with - repeated plays.
PS inspired by reviews of other Beck albums, I've since picked up the highly rated Sea Change album. It's a great if very different album (haunting breakup songs rather than grooves - Broken Drum would slot right in), but it doesn't diminish Guero. Ignore the nay-sayers; there's room for more than one style in an artist's pantheon, and Beck is talented enough to deliver across genres in spades - Guero is ace.
Very highly recommended and, along with Kaiser Chiefs' "Employment", a likely candidate for "Album of the Year"
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