Home > Beck, Danger Mouse, Modern Guilt > Beck – Modern Guilt: It’s Pretty Alright, I Hear

Beck – Modern Guilt: It’s Pretty Alright, I Hear

I’m going to make an admission. I’ve only heard one Gnarls Barkley song. “Crazy.” And I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve listened to it on one hand. But I knew when it was announced that Beck–possibly the best, most original songwriter and musician in the past fifteen years–was working with Gnarls Barkley mastermind Danger Mouse that it was a Big Thing. Mostly because both Beck and Danger Mouse are known as musical art-house freaks and mad scientist geniuses.

Beck has been many things in his career, from scrappy stoner goon on “Loser” to ironic pop culture sponge on “Where It’s At” to folksy balladeer on most all of Sea Change, to master hookwriter on Guero’s “Girl” (which I continually interject into “best song ever” arguments.) On Modern Guilt, I think Beck Hansen has finally hit his zenith.

Rather than being a mish-mash of sounds, Jackson Pollack-like canvases streamed with dribbles of color and splatters of genius, Modern Guilt has a focus and an urgency rarely touched upon in his other albums. Modern Guilt is the “Whistler’s Mother” of his catalog. It is direct, and to the point. In talking with a friend of mine today he mentioned that the lyrics on the album are far more direct than previous Beck albums. I suggest that musically that is true as well.

Between Beck’s melodies and Danger Mouse’s sparse (yet layered) backgrounds, the 60’s influence that always seems to pervade Hansen’s songs seems right at home. Guitars have a dirty crunch without sounding overwrought for authentic sound. Acoustic drums exist in the same land as electric beats and breaks in a seamless rhythmic pulse. The soundscape of the title track is uneasy and foreboding yet still unusually dancible. Or is it dancible and then uneasy and foreboding? In either case, it’s fucking good. And then the very next track, “Youthless,” is swimming with bloops and beeps reminscent of Guero.

If anything, that is the downfall of the record. The diversity we’ve come to expect from Beck is, well, expected. The album seems to be the culmination of his entire body of work from “Loser” all the way up to The Information. So I wonder, then, where he can go from here.

I hope he takes Danger Mouse with him.

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