Guilty as charged

Artist: Beck
Album: Modern Guilt
Release date: July 8
Label: Interscope Records

I need to stop expecting Beck to make a record as good as Sea Change. The dark, mellow Sea Change was one of the, if not the, best albums of 2002. So to expect Mr. Hansen to match that is unfair.

But with his new, minimalist homage to psychedelic records of the 1960s, he comes oh so close. Produced by Danger Mouse, Modern Guilt is a quick (33 minutes), fun and, most importantly, great album from Beck.

The album’s cover says a lot about the way this record sounds and the way Beck wants it to be perceived. Nothing but skinny jeans and pointy boots. Minimalist, just like the 10 sometimes-folksy, sometimes-downtrodden, sometimes-trippy songs on Modern Guilt.

The first half of the album is a masterpiece. When I got to the toe-tapping, too-catchy title track, I thought he had done it. I thought he had surpassed himself. “Modern Guilt” is far and away the standout track on this album. Like all of Sea Change, this song gives us an afraid, hurt and exposed Beck: “I feel uptight when I walk in the city/I feel so cold when I'm at home/Feels like everything's starting to hit me/I lost my bet ten minutes ago.”

The songs that precede “Modern Guilt” are up to snuff with some of Beck’s best stuff, too. “Gamma Ray” is a bouncy track with a thumping guitar about the end of the world: “Trying to hold, hold out for now/With these ice caps melting down.”

“Chemtrails” is an airy ballad about, again, poor Beck feeling all alone and wondering about the afterlife: “So many people/So many people/Where do they go?”

But after the greatness of “Modern Guilt,” it’s hard to really get into the rest of the album. They’re not bad songs by any stretch of the imagination. “Walls” – a poppy ditty about hunger for war – is some of Beck’s best songwriting on the entire album: “You got warheads stacked in the kitchen/You treat distraction like an ancient religion.”

But the back half of this album was just a let down after the perfect opening four songs. It’s still by far his best work since Sea Change, but it ends up being half perfection, the rest just great.

Score: 8.0/10
Stand-out tracks: Modern Guilt, Gamma Ray, Chemtrails, Walls


Track of the week:
Girl Talk – Still Here

Pittsburgh-based DJ Gregg Gillis decided to go the pay-what-you-want Radiohead route with his latest collection of mashups, Feed the Animals. It is one of the best albums of the year so far, and this track is a perfect example of why.

Imagine this: BLACKStreet’s “No Diggity” mixed over the synths of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” then over the percussion-heavy intro of Radiohead’s “15 Step.” Then all of a sudden you segue into The Band’s classic “The Weight” mashed up with the shouting of Webbie’s “Independent” and Young Joc’s proclamation of “We’re Goin’ Down.”

And that’s just a minute-and-a-half section of this song. And if you get confused about what exactly it is you’re hearing, don’t worry, the music nerds at Wikipedia have you covered.

This is music ADD and it’s mind-blowing.

To hear the track, go here and pay what you want for Feed The Animals.

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