Beck Hansen, best known as simply “Beck”, is hard to characterize in simple terms. A rock musician who regularly reinvents himself, a white rapper (One of his albums is called Guero, which means “whiteboy” in Spanish) of the first degree. His music is percussive, with virtually no musical improvisation. His studio recordings are complex and filled with sampled sounds.
The modern sound of his studio music, with the electronic sampling, does not appeal to me. I tend to like the more organic songs made with traditional instruments. Because the electronics don’t necessarily translate well into performance, his live music is superior. I have some great clips for this review. Here he is with a knockout performance of “The New Pollution”. Check out the dancing at the end!
Here’s a lovely version of “Guess I’m Doing Fine” from the quiet, sad album called Sea Change. His other most important CD is Odelay.
Beck toured in 2006 with a complete marionette program which mimicked the band’s movements. The two Saturday Night Live performances from his appearance on the show are superb; creative and exciting music, especially “Clap Hands”:
One more to fill out the program, a solo performance of “Nobody’s Fault But My Own”. When Beck slows it down, allowing his limited voice to impart some emotion to his lyrics, his message carries more weight:
Beck has limitations. I find that some of his lyrics, especially on the faster numbers, are essentially meaningless, not to mention indecipherable when sung. Either his voice has very limited range, or he chooses to sing or speak many songs in a monotone. Many of his songs are not melodic, and are more like rap songs over a complex and clever electronic backdrop. However, his output is quite prolific, and his work is innovative and ever changing. Here are the rankings:
The Golden Age, Beck ✭✭✭
The New Pollution, Beck ✭✭✭
Guess I’m Doing Fine, Beck ✭✭✭
Nobody’s Fault But My Own, Beck ✭✭
Lost Cause, Beck ✭✭
Where It’s At, Beck ✭✭
Tropicalia, Beck ✭✭
Loser, Beck ✭✭
Beercan, Beck ✭✭
Hotwax, Beck ✭✭
Mixed Bizness, Beck ✭✭
Nausea, Beck ✭✭
Girl, Beck ✭
Devil’s Haircut, Beck ✭