Beck - Modern Guilt

Jamie Milton 11/07/2008

Rating: 4/5

Beck - Modern Guilt

A quick glance at his watch and Beck's decides that it's time for a change. Out goes the quirkiness, the carelessness and the charm that swam about in 'The Information' and less recently, 'Guero'. In comes Danger Mouse with his surgery gear in hand, and they've got a record to make.

'Modern Guilt' is not quite the sudden jolt in movement or a shock to the system some have been hyping it up as. Beck's still the name, Beck's still the nature. We don't have a change in tactics equivalent to PJ Harvey's white dress, doom and gloom movement of 'White Chalk' (with the help of John Parish). Although when ears first came across 'Chemtrails', sinking in heartbreak and reverb, it was more than on the cards. 'Gamma Ray' is classic Beck and classic Danger Mouse, a simple bass riff moulded into a complex pop song due to the work of surrounding musicians. Soothing backing vocals (a regular attendee in the record) appear for the first time and it's about then that we realise the extent of Beck's "transformation".

Pop is very much on the agenda - 'Soul Of A Man' and the sharp and cutting title-track are simplistic, edgy and with a very, very modern edge. Brain Burton, who was only initially brought in to collaborate on one song, has inspired material reminiscent of Gnarls Barkley at their finest. Clocking in at thirty and a bit minutes, attempting to forget the jerky 'Youthless' is a futile task, or the bass-heavy opener 'Orphans' first time round. The same can be said for closer 'Volcano' - the biggest shock to the system you're bound to hear on the record. Eight albums in, and Beck might have written his most beautiful song to date. Melody the key, melancholic backing vocals at the ready, "I'm tired of evil /And all the things/ That I don't know" quivers the sleepy-head. Proceedings suddenly become haunting - "I don't know if I'm sane / But there's a ghost in my heart" and 'Modern Guilt' ends on anything but an anti-climax.

Other moments aren't as instant, requiring time but not effort. Chunky drums (looped of course), take control in 'Walls' - possessing one of the catchiest chorus' in Beck's career thus far, all thanks to Burton's production, it has to be said. 'Replica' stands out as the most complex and dysfunctional effort, sitting comfortably and not requiring as much attention and care as the other tracks. There isn't a great deal of variation on 'Modern Guilt' but for a record so short, that'd be all too much.

Beck's still not the entertainer he used to be in the "good old days" of 'Odelay' but he's settled into his new skin remarkably well. Thriving in the less obvious moments, the addition of Burton on board was essential, an ideal companion for a record so clear in direction.

Release date: 07/07/08