Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
There are those who will tell you that Beck's Mutations and Sea Change are two masterpieces. And the thing is, if you're really sleepy, or want to be really sleepy, they're both good albums. But, at the end of the day, you can cut off some detritus, and end up with a sweet, and varied, low-tempo album that is also fun to quietly sing along to (there are loud sing alongs on other albums). The only track that I really like that I ended up cutting off of this is "Golden Age", which will likely show up on another album.
When I was talking with a friend about the most recent Beck albums (Colors and Hyperspace), she mentioned that she really enjoyed the first single from Hyperspace because it was upbeat. Lyrically, maybe, but it's got a snoozy rhythm, which is fine, but which I don't consider "upbeat". This is a downbeat album. And I've arranged it as such. I've tried to give it some variety via musical influences and instruments, since the whole album has a despairing feel.
I think this is a good song to listen to when you're at home, sad, and not looking to get happy any time soon. It's okay to have days like those. And I hope this works as a worthwhile soundtrack for those times.
As a bridge to Odelay, we're starting this off shoulder shaking with some low key white folk rap Elevator Music. Slipshod rhyming lyrics and background whats. Keyboard chintzes over actual piano. Busy signal percussion.
We're lulled to the country honkytonk piano of Cancelled Check, a breakup song for the end of a friendship with a rotten egg. / It's crystal clear your time is nearly gone. It's nice when someone breaks up with a friend, and not a romantic partner. Sorry, bucko, you're a pain in the neck. There's also some interesting background moaning before the final chorus.
Your sorry eyes cut through the bone / They make it hard to leave you alone / Leave you here wearing your wounds / Waving your guns at somebody new / Baby you're lost / Baby you're lost / Baby you're A Lost Cause. A great moving on song. That friend who done you wrong? Sure, you still care about them, but you can't spare the energy without ruining yourself. So you're going to stop ruining yourself and wave goodbye.
And even though you were hurt, you can't point all your fingers at your former friend. It's Nobody's Fault But (Your) Own. When the road is full of nails / Garbage pails and darkened jails / And their tongues / Are full of heartless tales / That drain on you / Who would ever notice you / You fade into a shaded room. The strings saw away at your heart.
And when you're on a roll, Sing It Again. For those moments when you just want to be alone to think about how everything ended badly, but at least they ended. Right? The imagery is a bit more straight-forward than Odelay Beck, but sometimes you don't have the energy to be all cryptic-like, y'know? Just pull out your harmonica and blow a melancholy blues.
We stay solidly in country piano territory with O Maria, everybody knows the fabric of folly / is falling apart at the seams. This is a sing-along song in a sad country bar anywhere along the timeline. It blows a horn solo. It na na na na nas
Then we get some robot twang country. Cold Brains / Unmoved / Untouched / Unglued. This is one of those, I guess upbeat, downtempo songs about depression that harmonicas against an optimistic bassline and then throws some more effects at you until you wonder if you maybe ate some edibles before you laid down.
If "Cold Brains" was a charcoaled portrait of general sadness, Lonesome Tears paints some watercolor over it. It's more about getting beyond a relationship using questions than "getting over" a relationship by finding answers. If the lyrics were a computer language, it'd be Basic, but it's a pretty simple that then ramps out with some Beatles White Album style effects.
Bottle Of Blues was the song that convinced me that soft Beck was still good Beck. For some reason, I just picture by him by a lake or a river, with a band floating on a nearby dock, singing this song about how he's just generally sad about how he has unrequieted love for someone he probably doesn't even know very well. It's still nobody's fault. But now it's not even really directional like a tired soldier / with nothing to shoot. (And now I'm picturing Neil Patrick Harris saluting, and saying "General Malaise!")
If Little One is a lullaby for a child, it's a depressing listen. I like to think that "Little One" is one of his shorter friends. This previously unmentioned friend was listening to the last few Beck songs, and tells Beck that he's bringing him down, and Beck plays this little ditty expressing his emotions. And the friend rolls over and goes to sleep, knowing that Beck is going to keep Becking.
All the country influence is ok, but Beck is going to get more various influences, so for now let's go somewhere between Jimmy Buffet Florida and steel drum Carribean music with Tropicalia. Beck gets outside of himself so that he can watch what depressed Beck looks like from the outside. Misery waits in vague hotels / to be evicted.
That slightly upbeat track might give you the feeling that you Guess (You're) Doing Fine. You can be sad and still be healthy. I bade a friend farewell / I can do whatever pleases me. What a nice sentiment to end a sad album on. I'm not great, but I'm fine.
Except it wouldn't be true would it? "Guess I'm Doing Fine" was still a sad ballad. Fine is a low, low bar. It ain't happiness. It's Static. We end on this acknowledgement that we might someday we'll be able to laugh about the sadness we're currently feeling, but that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to be sad now.