For so many Beck-ophiles, such as myself, a new Beck release is much like studying for a test. I like to start at the top of his catalog and play on through. This prep will come in handy for identifying the stylistic progression and genre mixing he has become so well-known for. Listening to Beck is much like revisiting a beloved series, or a favorite novel that is strongly associated with an earlier time. Needless to say, I was excited to live another summer of my life through Beck’s latest release “Modern Guilt.”
However, the latest from the 38-year-old alternative rock trailblazer is a bluesy mess, something that in prior reassesses he had used to stunning affect. However, “Modern Guilt” offers little new, and is even a step back for him in some ways.
It’s unfair to say that if you’re not moving forward you’re not accomplishing anything. I would be content with a release of cut tracks from any one of Beck’s prior releases – “Midnight Vultures 2” would be have been more effective than his latest.
Beck has given us 1996’s “Odeley,” where the sampling is similiar in style to “Guilt” producer Danger Mouse’s famous mashup “The Grey Album.” There is more than enough evidence to suggest he was looking to progress, though the project remains stagnant. At times, I felt like he was almost sampling his prior work in a sad attempt at making a mash-up. Also featured on the album is indie femme-fatal Cat Power. If you are fond of Cat Power’s angelic voice and down-trodden rifts, then look someplace else. Sadly, Beck apparently had no room for incorporating her. Is she on bass? Drums? Where is Cat Power on this CD?
In the past, producer Danger Mouse has proven himself apt at delivering smooth beats and innovative samples. There’s no doubt in my mind that Danger’s production of “Guilt” was meticulous, for better or worse. Bass rifts come and go, jazzy drums are confronted with electronic static, which is all very cool. However, the production is only a veneer for the same material Beck has been building on during his expansive career.
In evaluating this record, ask yourself if you are a Beck fan (it’s the first step to recovery). You may find yourself having a brief tryst with “Modern Guilt,” simply to pay your respect. For anyone else listening to Beck for the first time or those yet under his spell, I suggest simply putting on all of Beck’s albums simultaneously while listening to Cat Power and Danger Mouse. Not only would you get a better feel for the artists, but the experience may prove to be more enjoyable than the 33-minute dud that is “Modern Guilt.”