Let me make this terse: I’m a gigantic Beck fan. Like, huger-than-huge. As in “I listened exclusively to Odelay for an entire year from ages 12-13.” Sold? OK.
Beck just released “Chemtrails,” the first cut from his new album, Modern Guilt. After a good 30+ listens, I’m ready to release my verdict: I feel like I just lost my BFF.
While I don’t want to say I’ve been less than pleased with Mr. Hansen’s repertoire for the past four-odd years, I will say that I only listen to three-ish songs on The Information. While the (Grammy-nominated! ooooh!) “Timebomb” did alleviate some of my worries that he might have lost all joy/spontaneity, I have since become concerned.
“Chemtrails,” like its namesake, is a total downer. But the song makes me sad for other reasons…
Now, it wouldn’t be fair to judge a Beck song as “bad” because it lacked a kitsch reference or some wacky white-boy rap, because some of his greatest work -- Odelay’s “Ramshackle,” One Foot in the Grave’s “Forcefield,” and Mutations’ “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” -- is quiet and introspective.
The song is on another plane of sadness because I feel like it could’ve been sung by anyone. While I appreciate the gifts of one Danger Mouse –- and I like the new Black Keys album he worked his magic on -- I feel like his touch was far too heavy-handed here. You have to wonder if the self-aware Beck we’ve come to know and love will pop up any moment and rescue the track with a trademark gimmick. But other than the saturated drums and distorted riffs at the song’s close –- which are too reminiscent of Sea Change’s “Sunday Sun” – there is nothing here to remind us of who we are listening to. Even the vocals are drowned out.
“Farewell Ride” off of Guero may have been his literal track about a funeral procession, but “Chemtrails” is the last nail in the “Beck isn’t as fun as he used to be” coffin. Some might call this the artist’s latest growth spurt -- I call it another reason to listen to Odelay for another year, straight.
Am I wrong? I mean, am I wrong??