Beck Sings “Guess I’m Doing Fine”

Listen to this song by cut-and-paste irony merchant and heartfelt singer-songwriter all in one, Beck. It’s “Guess I’m Doing Fine”, a single as taken from his 2002 album Sea Change, his seventh. The album’s title can be taken in a few ways, with one being the impression that Beck had embraced a new level of candour in terms of subject matter and perspective. This may be due to the fact that the album was released during a period of upheaval for its creator.

This song is one of many that documents the break-up of a relationship, with a requirement for the narrator in each song to confront the associated emotional turbulence before moving beyond it and starting a new chapter for himself. Sea change indeed, then. Evidently, Beck was apprehensive about revealing the depths of his feelings around these kinds of themes, given that he’d personally broken up with his partner of nine years around the time this album was released. He wanted to avoid self-indulgence, and capturing his own misery in amber. Eventually though, it occurred to him that songs about break-ups are legion because the pain associated with the end of a relationship is universal to the human experience. Why not write about it?

As a result, this song goes beyond any one personal story and opens things up in the material for an audience. This resulted in some pretty solid reviews. And there are still some eyebrow-arching lines in there that are true to their writer’s M.O to boot.
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Beck Plays “Blackbird Chain”

Beck Morning PhaseListen to this track by singer-songwriter and artistic moving target Beck. It’s “Blackbird Chain”, a deep-cut as taken from this year’s full-length record Morning Phase. The album is the result of a long gestation period for Beck, following up 2008’s Modern Guilt. That’s quite a stretch of time for an artist as prolific as he’s been, and one who’s since traded record labels since that earlier release.

And as usual, the results are a far cry from that earlier release too, trading tight-cornered arrangements, beats,  loops, and synths for real strings, acoustic guitars, and expansive production. The centre of that production shifted as well, from  Los Angeles and Danger Mouse at the controls, for recording in Nashville no less, taking the production chair himself. So what has he done on this record, with “Blackbird Chain” being a worthy representation of a cohesive whole within an established body of work?

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Beck Performs ‘Debra’

beckmidnitevulturesListen to this track by L.A-based R&B-fixated pop cut-up artist Beck. It’s “Debra”, a Princely track taken from his 1999 funkified, Young Americans-esque Midnite Vultures, a follow-up to the more sombre Mutations album.  The song was a stuck in at the end of the record that explored a number of R&B textures through an indie-rock filter in Beck’s attempt to tear down the walls between the rock world and the world of R&B as it stood at the time.

Known for being something of a slacker poster boy when he debuted in the early ’90s, by the end of the decade, Beck had done some serious work in undercutting that original incarnation by cutting follow-up records that seemingly had no connection between each one. If Odelay was a study in cut-and-paste quasi hip hop, then Mutations turned in a more acoustically based acid folk-rock direction. That record was only to be followed by this one, Midnite Vultures, full of samples and squiggly casios, yet also now punctuated with R&B horns and falsetto vocals.

But, what was Beck trying to pull with this song, “Debra”. Was he really serious?

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Beck Performs ‘Nobody’s Fault But My Own’

Here’s a clip of former 90s slacker poster-boy turned sonic visionary Beck Hansen, aka Beck, with a highlight track from the 1998 album Mutations, a record he was quick to point out was not the follow-up to the quasi-hip hop collage that was Odelay.  Yet, in the process, he produced something which was in a league of its own, baring no relation to that other album, and therefore not to be compared to it, which was perhaps Beck’s intention all along.

The song itself is a mishmash of 60s English folk-pop flavourings by way of India, with plenty of lysergic magic shimmering around the edges.  Yet in 1998,  this sounded entirely new, too.  Where Beck had perfected the bringing together of disparate textures by the time this record was made, it could be argued that songwriting was secondary to those textures.  But on this song, that dynamic is inverted.

This song and the album around it, showed a new side to Beck; no longer the ironic and detached collage specialist, but rather a very astute artist who knew that selling the sizzle and not the steak is often a good idea, but also knew that eventually people gotta eat.  And Beck serves up a sumptuous meal here, with a song that still contains his trademark impressionistic lyrics, yet this time with a palpable emotional core to go along with it.

Personally, this is my favourite album of his, and this is one of my favourite songs in his canon.  I’d heard, and loved “Devil’s Haircut” and “Where It’s At”, and I loved “Loser” before that.  But there was something untouchable about those songs, as if you were hearing them behind glass.  But, with this song, and the other songs on Mutations, I got more of an impression that Beck had opened the sliding doors just a crack.  He was playing with the idea of letting his audience in a bit more, yet having the sense not to be too forthcoming about the inner workings of his own mind, or heart.  He’d save that until Sea Change, four years later.  And by then, we knew we could believe him.

To hear more music, check out the Beck MySpace page.

And for more information and addition fan-type stuff, check out the official Beck website.