'Odelay' proves Beck is no 'Loser'

by Gene Park | 7/1/96 5:00am

Continuing in his folk/punk/hip-hop style from his 1994 debut, "Mellow Gold," Beck Hansen, best known for his alternative hit "Loser," has released his second major-label album titled "Odelay."

Beck's music career exploded when his eccentric ballad "Loser" hit the airwaves becoming what critics like to say was an "alternative college hit."

By not trying to create another song like "Loser," Beck, 24, avoids the pitfalls many artists fall into when producing and recording their sophmore work. Beck's most noted change on this album is his choice of producers.

This time Beck recruited the Dust Brothers, the same producers who worked with the Boston-based Beastie Boys on their 1989 sample-saturated "Paul's Boutique." The similarities of "Paul's Boutique" and "Odelay" are evident and will undoubtedly draw comparisons from critics and fans of both groups.

After the release of "Mellow Gold," Beck recorded two non-descript albums including "One Foot in the Grave." Both albums were recorded on independent record labels.

Creatively challenged and unstimulating, these recording were dull and lackluster. However, with "Odelay," Beck succeeds in making a musically-diverse album incorporating base-thumping beats and samples.

Opening this newest album with "Devils Haircut," Beck's use of different guitar lines, hip-hop beats, random sounds, and incoherent lyrics give the song a vintage feel. "Love Machines on Sympathy's Crutches" and "Got a Devil's Haircut in my Mind" also highlight the artist's affinity for playing with language and lyrics.

The remainder of the album is a sonic trip with a myriad of different sounds and beats. "Odelay" ends in a similar fashion as "Mellow Gold," closing with a very slow track followed by a short time of silence and then a wall of sound. This was probably Beck's idea of fun: annoying the listener and forcing him or her to turn the album off.

One cannot judge Beck as a serious artist because he does not attempt to be serious. True to his style, Beck's music and lyrics are at times random and incoherent. Unlike today's most popular bands like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, Beck's message is not meant to be earth-shattering, yet he still wants the world to listen to his jokes and insights.

The biggest setback of Beck's album is its comprehensibility. Throughout "Odelay" it is hard to understand and decipher what the artist says. At times it is hard to comprehend Beck's lyrics and in other instances it is hard to understand their meaning. However, the music, an its eclectic infusion of folk with hip-hop, on the album remains Beck's strong point.

Using a hand-bag of samples from such artists as James Brown and Bob Dylan, "Odelay" does a great job combining them with random noises and danceable beats.

If you like the white-boy hip-hop style of such groups as the Beastie Boys, 311, and the Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, you will get a kick out of Beck's "Odelay."

The people who bought "Mellow Gold" solely because of "Loser" were most likely disappointed with the album's lack of hits. However, those who appreciated its style, humor and randomness will enjoy Beck's latest offering.

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