Artist – Album: Beck – Mutations
Released: 3rd November 1998
Sounds Like: The genre spanner
Howard Moon: I do many things. I span the genres - they call me the genre spanner.
Vince Noir: Yeah, they call you the spanner...
Getting started on Beck’s back catalogue can be something of a daunting task for any music fan – over his 20 year career he’s racked up 11 albums and 40 singles, hopping from style to style on each one like Howard Moon’s genre spanner. Take a wrong turn as you explore his music unguided and you could unwittingly find yourself in bossa nova territory, or stranded in some electro-indie-hip hop no-man’s-land, unprotected against stray DJ scratches and obscure samples. No one wants that.
Luckily I’ve come up with a cheat, which should help you to avoid potential pratfalls. Begin with Odelay, Beck’s seminal 1996 recording. Even here the eclectic varieties come at you thick and fast, but they’re so well-crafted and brilliant that you should be immune to them. However, you can – and this is my point – use the songs as springboards into whichever Beck-osphere is best suited to your particular tastes. For example, if you like ‘Where It’s At’ and ‘High 5 (Rock the Catskills)’ best, then Midnite Vultures might be the album you turn to next. If the chameleon-esque approach of ‘Devil’s Haircut’ and ‘The New Pollution’ sit easy with you, then you’re safe to make the move to Mellow Gold and Guero. If, like me, ‘Ramshackle’ and ‘Jack-Ass’ are your favourites, then the lush sound of Sea Change and the acoustic Mutations are great albums.
Beck himself revels in the laid back psychedelic bluesy folk surroundings of Mutations. There’s less need to be the shape-shifting showman and we’re treated to a more open and reflective individual on the likes of mandarin-led ‘Nobody’s Fault but My Own’. Being Beck there’s still a degree of diversity, diving from The Kinks-inspired ‘Lazy Flies’ to the Brazilian ‘Tropicalia’ to the bar room band ‘Bottle of Blues’, but the changes here seem minor and seamless compared to other albums. The mellow gold of Mutations is one of the best Beck mutations.
Albumaday... rating: 8/10
1. Cold Brains – 3:41
2. Nobody’s Fault but My Own – 5:02
3. Lazy Flies – 3:44
4. Canceled Check – 3:14
5. We Live Again – 3:05
6. Tropicalia – 3:20
7. Dead Melodies – 2:36
8. Bottle of Blues – 4:56
9. O Maria – 3:59
10. Sing It Again – 4:19
11. Static – 5:18
12. Diamond Bollocks – 6:02
Listen to ‘Cold Brains’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl-337I6RH0
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