I've listened to the latest Beck release Guero a few times recently. When I listen to it, it is pleasant enough. And I'm wondering, does anyone really care about Beck anymore? His commercial heyday is way over. His rock critic darling status seems to have dissipated into a "Oh look, let's write a feature on Beck because he has a new album out and he's a big star and his dad was an artist and he's got those dreamy eyes and he's a Scientologist now and he was a loser baby so why don't we write about him?" obligatory kind of thing.
His early to mid 90's stuff seemed to really set the world on fire if you ask certain rock critics or look at his record sales. Odelay was huge, huge, huge. But his BIG records always sounded dated to me a few months after they came out. So "cutting edge" and so eclectic merely seems old hat after awhile. With all the instant mashups out there these days, does Beck even seem remotely original anymore? Has he always been more of a schtick than a songwriter?
His quieter records over the past few years (Sea Change and Mutations) have some good songs but overall aren't amazing. Not that any of his records are that great from start to end. Is One Foot in the Grave as good as I remember? I don't know and I'm too lazy to do the research right now.
Beck seems to be treading water and trying on a lot of his old hats. In this regard, Guero is kind of like Tom Waits' Mule Variations. However, Mule Variations seemed like a Tom Waits best of that had never been released while Guero seems like the B-Sides to Beck's greatest hits with two brand new tracks to entice old fans to buy it. This new record sounds dated the first time you play it. Which wouldn't matter if the songs were really good. Alas, after only a few listens I can't definitely say that the album isn't good. But it sure as hell doesn't make me excited in a "What the hell is he up to?" kind of way.
Which begs the question, is there anyone out there that swears by Beck? I mean, there are artists out there that people clearly swear their allegiance to. But who is obsessed with Beck in the way that people become obsessed with R.E.M. or Depeche Mode or Interpol? Is his whole ironic stance too off-putting for people to fully embrace? Even when he's seemingly being sincere like on Sea Change, everyone just sort of assumes that it is just another Beck put-on. "Have you heard the new Beck album? He's not doing Tropicalia or funk this time! He's doing the sincere singer-songwriter thing! It is marvelous!"
So are there diehard Beck fans out there that I just am not aware of? Are there people that go see him on every tour or that buy every release the minute that it is available? Who still really cares? The only buzz that this album has been generating as far as I can tell is a kid in my class absolutely loves it.
Hmmmm ... right as I'm posting this entry, Jeremy has just started playing a Beck song on his Sunday night radio show. That might be a sign of something but, of what I'm not sure.
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