Ashes to ashes, Dust Brothers to hits. Thus is the lesson Beck learned after the “Sea Change” that was his previous album.
On “Sea Change,” Beck turned inward, recording a moody, often painful disc that explored the demise of his long-term relationship with fashion designer Leigh Limon.
In the two and half years since, Beck Hansen has become a father and a husband and his outlook has taken yet another turn. To the happy-go-lucky? Please, this is still Beck, but “Guero” is kickin’. Conjuring up some of the same beats that made “Odelay” a critical and fan favorite, “Guero” will have you bobbing your head and taping your toe — to lyrics about graves, the devil and maybe even a serial killer. And on this, his eighth album, Beck reunites with the Dust Brothers to bring back some of that kick-butt sound of “Odelay.”
Yes, the lyrics are just as sullen and dark as any on “Mutations” or “Sea Change”, but it's the beats that set this album apart. But while “Guero” is drawing comparisons to “Odelay” it is not a remake of that 10-year-old album. The layers are deeper, the rhythms more complex and the message more mature. “Guero” is the vision of a grown man, not a 20-something slacker, who has come to terms with the fact that day-to-day life won't ever completely live up to the promise.
And that vision is littered with bodies. The body count is high (I count references in at least eight of the disc's 13 tracks) and the devil is always lurking, but the rhythm is what will get you and suck you in.
Beck kicks off “Guero” with the album's first single, the hard-rocking “E-Pro”, a song that lashes out at the wagging tongues that are “talking trash to the garbage around you.”
The next track, “Qué Onda Guero”, bring the sounds of the East Los Angeles neighborhood where Beck grew up to life. The lyrics dance along to the spanglish of barrio boys calling out to the guero (white boy) walking down the street.
“Girl” is a catchy little tune about, well, murder. “I know I'm gonna steal her eye/she doesn't even know what's wrong/and I know I'm gonna make her die/take her where her soul belongs ...” All righty, then. But it will still get you moving.
“Missing” has a hypnotic bossa nova beat with the words of a lost man lamenting a relationship gone wrong. The Latin groove, and sense of foreboding, continues on “Earthquake Weather” (“Something's coming/sky is purple”) and the funk-infused “Black Tambourine.”
Beck even takes a turn at country, taking his “Farewell Ride” with “two white horses in a line/carrying me to my burying ground.”
Yes, the lyrics are dark but the mood of the album is far from foreboding. Beck is having fun with his morbid thoughts, and dancing his way through the graveyard.