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Saturday, April 20, 2024

CD Review: Modern Guilt


Modern Guilt


Rating: 4

The eighth studio release from the 38-year-old legend is as much a Beck album as any of its predecessors, meaning that you can’t really expect anything in particular. In this case, producer DJ Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s funky, electronic beats contrast with Beck’s grave lyrics and themes, creating a dichotomy that is simultaneously danceable and somberly beautiful.

The album reveals an older, wearier and more darkly disillusioned artist, his words slowly steering away from the whimsical, lighter themes of past albums. This bleakness, however, would likely go unnoticed by the average listener – its up-tempo blend of electro-pop, funk and ’60s style psych-rock mostly dominate our first impressions. On closer listening, we encounter the world of an aging rock star in the midst of a spiritual midlife crisis.

“I feel uptight when I walk in the city / I feel so cold when I’m at home / Feels like everything is starting to hit me,” Beck sings in the title track, his downhearted, meandering outlook intertwined with a subtle guitar and Burton’s catchy beats.

“Walls” expresses a foreboding message to the modern generation of apathetic youth: “You’ve got warheads stacked in the kitchen / You treat distraction like an instant religion / … Hey, what are you gonna do when those walls are falling down / Falling down on you?”

Similarly, the apocalyptic “Gamma Ray” warns against the ecological disasters awaiting us to the sound of loopy, freaky garage-pop: “Trying to hold / Hold out for now / With these ice caps / Melting down.”

The album possesses neither the timely genius that was Odelay, nor the blithe mood of Guero nor the wackiness of Midnight Vultures. Yet it is still reminiscent of everything we have come to enjoy from Beck – eclectic, experimental and with an appealing, poppy sensibility.

Still, Beck’s gloomy words, as on my personal favorite “Volcano,” make one wonder if he can still be thought of as the same crazy, passionate, weird kid from the ’90s.

“I’ve been walking on these streets so long / I don’t know where they’re going to lead anymore / But I think I must have seen a ghost/ I don’t know if it’s my illusions that keep me alive,” he sings.

-Sonia Parecadan

Give these tracks a listen: “Chemtrails,” “Gamma Ray”

For fans of: Spoon, Gnarls Barkley, Cat Power

Lyrics sidebar: Volcano

And I’ve been drifting

On this wave so long

I don’t know

If it’s already

Crashed on the shore

And I’ve been riding

On this train so long

I can’t tell

If it’s you or me

Who is driving us

Into the ground

I don’t know

If I’m sane

But there’s a ghost

In my heart

That’s trying

To see in the dark

I’m tired of people

Who only want

To be pleased

But I still want

To please you


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