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Friday, June 23, 2017

Beck's Guero is the new pink

Beck fuses his older and newer styles in a jazzy, bluesy album.

April 1, 2005

In a moment of insanity, after a moment of hesitation, I downed the pills. I think. They were supposed to be nothing more than a cheap high, but something else happened.

I started seeing and feeling music.

I looked at the crumpled napkin next to me, and saw what my friend had written: "Watch out for Synesthesia man." I didn't know what that word meant.

Let's see what will happen.

As Beck's new album, Guero, grows louder, a flood of colors and shapes fills the room.

"E-Pro" is playing. Dark green rectangles are bouncing up and down on the floor with the guitar. The crazy chorus is making them dance, as it makes my head bob up and down. The perfect single, I think.

The third track on the album, "Girl," produced a variety of entirely different effects. The Nintendo-style intro reminds me of Beck's GameBoy Variations EP, and sharp triangles are spearing the wall. The acoustic guitar is a yellow oval that's mixing in and out of Beck's maroon voice. There has never been a better summer song, or a better road trip song.

Suddenly, the yellow ovals swing themselves into heavy blue ovals. Cool ovals. Jazzy ovals. "Go it Alone." They rock back and forth with the old-style smooth bass. This is the best song on the album, I say to myself.

Then I hear "Missing." All of the sudden, I'm in the South Pacific drinking a piña colada. It smells like Sea Change, Beck's previous acoustic guitar and orchestra-laden album. The strings enter eloquently, and I see vibrant colors. The world is at peace. The Sea Change beauty is here, but it's slightly different.

"Black Tambourine" has a fast, dark rhythm section that darts in and out of lyrics until a distorted guitar enters. The disheveled song makes sense now. A guitar solo. The notes fly through the air, and I rock my head to the beat.

"Earthquake Weather" is different. An acoustic guitar romp complete with conga drums and synthesizers would be odd on another album, but it fits here like a glove. The strings are back, and I'm twirling thorough a world of smooth jazz and beats, but with synthesizers. This is the new jazz.

The guitars come into "Broken Drum" like subdued beasts, tugging at their chains, longing to break free. They don't though, thankfully. Their chains are forged of piano, slide guitar and bells. "What's happening?" I think.

The western claps in "Farewell Ride" remind me of dirtier tracks on Odelay, such as "Where It's At." Is this Odelay the second? No. It's better, cleaner and lighter. I think I have a handle on it until "Rental Car" plays. We're a lot like Odelay now, and I see the shaggy dog. The vocals are higher, and the guitar is rougher. Then a girl sings, at least, I think she does. Help. Spinning out of control, but then ...

It's over. I look down at my desk. There are no pills, no napkin, just the case for Guero. It wasn't drugs; it was the album. I get it. Beck has blended the best parts of his classic Odelay and the gorgeous rhythms of Sea Change with the same hip-hop/indie/South American sound he's tampered with before. It's an experience.

I need another hit.

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