I really like Beck. You might say I love Beck, or at least Beck’s mainstream records from ’90s and early ’00s. (I have slowly become less of a fan, over the years.) And I’d like to think I also really enjoy listening to musicians I enjoy having a great time, though I don’t know if that’s actually true or not. (I’d like to think so.) But there is a huge shadow hanging over this record which keeps me from enjoying it as much as everyone else.
Beck has always literally worn his influences on his sleave on his genre-mash-up records. That’s sort of the point – he combines a bunch of disparate things in new ways. The clear influences on different parts of his music never bothered me on those earlier record, perhaps in part because I didn’t know what they were, but I’d like to think it was because his combination of these disparate things was extremely unique for the era.
But here, there is one influence I hear more than others, dominating many of the songs, and that’s Prince. I can’t say I ever noticed his influence on Mellow Gold or Odelay, though that could be because I heard those record before I ever listened to a Prince album. That’s not to say Prince is everywhere on this album, but just that he’s a (very) noticeable influence, where at times I feel like I’m listening to a Prince-imitator rather than Beck.
Fortunately, that is not all the time. Moreover, Beck and his band are having so much fun, that my initial resistance to the record has been eroded with subsequent listens. And, because this is a Beck record, there is just an absolute ton of stuff happening in every track, meaning that there’s always something grabbing your attention.
I still think this is the most clearly derivative record Beck has ever made (to the best of my music knowledge). Though it still sounds like Beck, I think it’s the only Beck album I’ve ever heard where I’ve spent at least part of the time thinking about how much it sounds like someone else. And that’s why I can’t get more excited about it. But it’s clear they are enjoying themselves and it’s infectious.
7/10 I guess
PS There is also a song with a Tom Waits-esque intro, which is either weird or great, depending upon your perspective.