Beck – Midnite Vultures
Beck – Midnite Vultures
Midnite Vultures was touted as Beck’s real follow-up to Odelay, since the loose psych-folk sessions of Mutations were intended to be an aside in his discography. This reading of Vultures gives the impression that it’s another wildly careening, genre-hopping rollercoaster, the way Mellow Gold and Odelay were, yet this doesn’t turn out to be the case. Instead, like Mutations, Vultures focuses only a handful of genres—this time around, it’s soul, funk and rap with a few hints of country for good measure. Before its release, Beck described this record as “a party record with dumb sounds and dumb songs and dumb lyrics,” and on that front, Midnite Vultures succeeds gloriously, which is both its greatest strength and weakness. Surely, this record contains some of Beck’s most clever arrangements, and the music is lively and exciting, with “Debra” and “Get Real Paid” sounding like great, lost Prince tracks. Meanwhile, “Sexx Laws,” with its Southern soul horns and breakbeat drums, is simply one of the best and catchiest songs Beck would ever pen. Vultures also houses some of his funniest lyrics, full of ridiculous come-ons (“Touch my ass if you’re qualified”) and zany character sketches. Because it’s so consistently playful and tightly constructed, it’s a shame that something creeps in that has never appeared before on a Beck album: a sense of parody. Remember, he called these “dumb songs,” and while he clearly put a lot of effort in the music, Vultures sometimes gives off the impression that he’s ridiculing the very party he started. This is nowhere more clear than on “Hollywood Freaks,” which, with its electronically modified vocals and gangsta clichés, manages to nearly crash the momentum built up in the first half. While Beck has certainly poked fun at certain styles of music in the past, the over-the-top caricatures that sometimes appear here are a bit off-putting, even if they sometimes add to the fun like on “Peaches & Cream.” Luckily, the second half of the record helps to distract from this concern, even if the feeling still lingers. There’s enough to keep the album from being one of Beck’s best works, but Midnite Vultures, especially its nearly flawless first half, is still one of the purest rushes he would ever deliver.