By Mike A. Bryan, Staff Writer
Beck, my goodness, what has happened to your music? Over twenty years have passed since you declared yourself to be a loser, and in the process, you have become somewhat of a god of experimental alternative music.
Your songs have been featured in TV, movies, and video games. Your production talents have given us some gems, like a solo album you produced for Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth called “Demolished Thoughts,” and an album you produced for Stephen Malkmus (also of Pavement) and the Jicks, “Mirror Traffic,” which was released in August 2011. Your more recent collaborators include Childish Gambino, Sia, and M83, which were all amazing, with unique sounds. Most of your albums have been progressive, somewhat revelatory, and showcased your wide abilities in constructing various new forms of music from a diverse set of influences. But now you have given us a new album, “Colors,” which is boring, slightly repetitive, and so sickly poppy as to turn off most of your most ardent fans after just one listen.
There is not much new exploration on this album; it is focused on synth— and drum machine—driven dance music that comes across as lame and out of touch. What happened to the funk? Where did your party side go? Or vice versa: where did the introspective beauty reached on “Mutations,” “Sea Change” and “Morning Phase” go? This radio-friendly album sounds mass-produced for teeny boppers. To be quite honest, “Wow” is the only track that truly comes across as Beck, with “Dear Life” being reminiscent of some of your earlier work.
Beck is the king of funky, weird, and offbeat, and this is the opposite. The loser has morphed into a boring Mr. Popular. The whole album is mainstream and sounds like music that has been done before, by bands like MGMT or Matt and Kim; there is no new ground broken here. “Colors” is radio-friendly and mainstream to the point of being uninspired and unimportant. The music, while complexly layered, is pointless and says nothing. Someone even decided that throwing a love song into the mix, “Fix Me,” would be a good idea – it was not. Perhaps Beck has become a husband and father? Is this music produced for a younger crowd due to a life change? A quick look into Wikipedia reveals that yes, indeed, our revered pastor of the funky, progressive, experimental, alternative rock genre has more than one child. One can’t help but wonder if the changes that come with fatherhood have mellowed our formerly golden Beck into a mutation that is a complete sea change from the guero screaming “Odelay” at midnite vultures.
Where are the fuzzed-out, reverb-laden, rap-like vocals from the earlier works? Why is everything so focused on catchy hooks and sugary sounds? I’m sorry, Beck, but this album is a two thumbs down. You have given us an overly mature, sedentary version of your formerly funky self. Even after multiple listens, the album does not gain in complexity or interest. I will shelve this one and wait for the next.