Those of us lucky enough to come of age during the Nineties intuitively understood Beck’s importance to our musical cannons from the beginning. His tongue-and-cheek arrangements have always seemed to tip their hats to other musical genres such as 60s psychedelic, hip-hop, indie rock (on and on) while still creating something – dare I say – genuinely original in flavor and sound. Like the rest of us, Beck may have been inspired, and at times burdened, by the musical heroes and legacies of the Sixties and Seventies, but he never allowed his influences to become a parody or an assumed identity. Considering that his mom was a staple of the Andy Warhol Factory era, this was no small feat in and of itself.
Instead, Beck hit the main stage as his own man from the start, and instantly became the ADD-inflicted storyteller of LA’s postmodernist urban culture. Our generation may not have had Father Rock Gods like Hendrix or Dylan to worship in concert, but we could always shoot the shit with our archetypal Cool Older Brother Beck who seemed to pontificate on the same falls and foibles as our predecessors, but to a much hipper dance groove and certainly a better wardrobe.
If this is the Beck you fell in love with, then welcome home.
Modern Guilt is being lambasted and lauded (depending on which review you read) as Beck’s midlife crisis album (although, didn’t they say the same thing about Sea Change?), but I don’t see this release that way at all. Sure, Beck thoughtfully explores such topics as climate change, religion, technology overload, and his own mortality, but with producer Danger Mouse at the helm, this 10th release plays more like intelligent dinner conversation amongst Generation X adults than anything else - something worth paying attention to, but certainly nothing to get overly worked up over. It’s a worthy addition to his body of work, with some music blogs already calling Modern Guilt his best since Odelay. Frankly, I see this release as the one that should have followed Guero - not The Information (probably because I wasn’t thrilled with his last one, but maybe that’s just me). There are at times where Modern Guilt becomes so rhythmically repetitive that you just want to shake all the E pills out of Danger Mouse and tell him to leave the raves back in the Nineties where they belong, but otherwise I love this record. Instead of the drugs, uncork a well-aged bottle of red and enjoy this more grown-up release.
Favorite Track: “Volcano”
Overall, Modern Guilt gets four Bitch Slaps our of five: