Efficiency seems to be central to the new album from Beck Hansen and co-producer Brian Burton, aka, Danger Mouse. Rushing by at just under 34 minutes, these 10 songs sum up a good deal of Beck’s past dalliances into an array of themes and genres. Danger Mouse is a smart choice for Beck being that, he, too, is a musical chameleon who loves to play with musical personas.
Opening with “Orphans” Beck immediately hits us with his unique wordplay that might be about something important or maybe nothing at all. The sound is pure Beck with handclaps and acoustic guitars blending with throbbing bass, stifled drums beats and la-la chorus. Chan Marshall, aka, Cat Power, adds her vocals.
Danger Mouse’s production jumps to the forefront on the 2nd track “Gamma Rays.” You’ll recognize the staccato guitar work from his work as half of the duo Gnarls Barkley. What is a fun surprise is the Beach Boy bump that keeps this one rolling along on a happy note. The Beach Boy vibe rolls into the following cut “Chemtrails.” Pretty overdubs of Beck and Cat Power are matched by frenetic drumming and ethereal production adds a flavoring of Flaming Lips. This is a pretty trippy number as these divergent sounds weave in and out of the spotlight. “Modern Guilt” is a poppy little song with hints of Beatlesque waltz technique.
Beck does get serious and tackles politics on “Walls” a song that rattles along for just over 2 minutes. It seems Beck has said as much as he needed to say and the ending’s abruptness seems to state as much. The rest of Modern Guilt speeds by while throwing bits and pieces of borrowed sounds and a smorgasbord of production techniques at you. You won’t find a masterpiece in here but I guarantee you won’t get bored.
If this record comes across like a collection of left over pieces from past records (aka Mutations) with a new coat of glossy Danger Mouse paint on it keep in mind that this release completes Beck’s contract with Interscope records. Let’s see what Beck has up his sleeve for his next album.