Beck – Odelay
Beck – Odelay
After his two indie detours, Stereopathetic Soulmanure and One Foot In The Grave, Beck returned to the major leagues with Odelay, an astonishing work that proved his music inimitable. Taking the genre-transcending formula of Mellow Gold to dizzying new heights, Beck manages to tackle even more here, from easy listening to white noise and certainly everything in between, sometimes within one song, sometimes within a few seconds. Surely anybody can put a hip-hop beat over a country song but the astonishing thing about the record is that nothing seems out of place—it all seems like it’s supposed to fit that way, even when the sounds are at their most fragmented. This has much to do with the Dust Brothers’ production as Beck’s songwriting. Unlike their groundbreaking work on Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, the Dust Brothers don’t provide the music’s foundation but instead add small touches and samples, lending Odelay a surprising cohesion, unlike the abrupt shifts on Mellow Gold. By and large, though, Beck is the real focus here, his songs thrilling and compelling no matter what style he writes in. Sure, each song is rooted in a certain genre, but he bends, twists and transcends each style, creating unpredictable combinations that bristle with invention. Even when he plays it straight, such as on the folkier numbers “Jackass” and “Ramshackle,” Beck’s songwriting continues to shine, despite the aid of postmodern gimmickry. His words still resemble free verse, but his imagery is both funnier and more evocative than it was on Mellow Gold, which only adds to the richness and infectiousness of the record, whether it be the cowboy pastiche on “Sissyneck” or the “two turnables and a microphone” hook of “Where It’s At.” Though genre-mashing would later become the norm rather than the exception, few would take the same approach as Beck did here, perhaps fearing accusations of copycatting—this album is so distinctive, it would be difficult to use as a starting point without simply replicating its achievements. As a result, Odelay remains one of the best and most original albums to arrive out of the ’90s alternative movement.