Album Review: Beck


Beck -‘Morning Phase.’ (Capitol)

Listening to this album, it occurs to me that in many ways, parallels could be drawn between Beck Hansen and Neil Young. Both have experimented with different styles of music during their long careers, careers that can now be measured in decades rather than years. Both might be remembered by the more casual music fan for a song that was a hit long ago – but have demonstrated that it is albums that are their true forte. In Young’s case, the song would be ‘Heart of Gold’ in Beck’s case it was his breakthrough hit ‘Loser.’ And it may come as a bit of a shock to realise that the latter is now twenty years old.

And – without going on about Neil Young too much – both have created work amongst their that is deeply evocative of the west coast of America, specifically California. In Young’s case it’s an album like Harvest, in Beck’s case, it’s Morning Phase. It may have been six years since his last album, Modern Guilt, but when you hear it, the wait won’t matter.

And with song titles like ‘Say Goodbye’ ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Unforgiven’ you might be forgiven for assuming that this album – billed as his acoustic album – would be a relentless sad and difficult listen. It’s not. Sure, it’s melancholic – but it’s a lushly orchestrated and beautifully constructed melancholy at the same time. Considering it’s his twelfth album, this may well be the best album he has ever made, and that’s in a career that has seen a number of great albums.

It’s almost deceptively simple and straightforward – it’s not delivered to us as a heartbreaking meditation on life, and the orchestration is decorative, rather than overpowering. Somehow it arrives, pretty well fully-formed, and revealing a little more of its magic on each successive listen. Once you’ve heard the opening ‘Cycle’ and ‘Morning’ you’ll want to stay the whole way for the 47 minute ride.


Morning Phase is out now on Capitol.

Seeing as it’s still (just about) the season of goodwill…

…and I was asked to re-post some of the last songs I’d done in my Christmas posts, here we go:

Stars -‘Fairytale Of New York.’ mp3
Pipettes -‘White Christmas.’ mp3
Teenage Fanclub -‘Christmas Eve.’ mp3
Dandy Warhols -‘Little Drummer Boy.’ mp3
Beck -‘The Little Drum Machine Boy.’ mp3
Liz Phair -‘Winter Wonderland.’ mp3
Holly Golightly -‘Christmas Tree On Fire.’ mp3
Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of The British Empire -‘Christmas 1979.’ mp3
Ten Thousand Dollar Tattoo -‘My First Santa.’ mp3
Eels -‘Christmas Is going To The Dogs.’ mp3
Eels -‘Everything’s Gonna Be Cool this Christmas.’ mp3
Weezer -‘Christmas Celebration.’ mp3
Weezer -‘The Christmas Song.’ mp3

Songs For Christmas XXI

It is mental out there, way too many people, still too much to do, and I haven’t even written a single Christmas card. Here are five more in the ongoing series…

First up, the Dandy Warhols’ cover of ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ I heard this on Peel in Christmas 1994, and it was actually the first time I had ever heard (of) them.

Dandy Warhols -‘Little Drummer Boy.’ mp3

…So what else could possibly follow it but…this?

Beck -‘The Little Drum Machine Boy.’ mp3

I came across this Liz Phair track across the ‘net, though I don’t know much about it:

Liz Phair -‘Winter Wonderland.’ mp3

This track came out last year:

Holly Golightly -‘Christmas Tree On Fire.’ mp3

…and finally, this track is from this year’s album of the same name (also released as a 7″ if you act quickly) (NB: this track does feature swear words, just in case you are in the presence of those unable to ‘cope’ with that sort of thing).

Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians Of The British Empire -‘Christmas 1979.’ mp3

Three more Christmas posts to come…XX

Oh, and if you live in the UK, and haven’t yet bought a copy of the Malcolm Middleton single, please DO so!