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by Dan Grote

There are two Beck Hansen’s roaming the earth. One Beck is responsible for penning the slacker/cowboy/sex albums Mellow Gold, Odelay, and Midnite Vultures, while the other, mellower Beck, can take the credit for One Foot in the Grave, Mutations, and Sea Change, the latter being his mellowest yet most carefully orchestrated work to date.

On Sea Change, it would appear that Beck’s musical pendulum couldn’t swing any further in either direction, as the oversexed hyperactivity of Vultures has met its opposite equal on this album of predominantly acoustic folk weepers. The lore behind Sea Change is that Beck wrote the songs as the result of a breakup. If this is the impetus driving Change, the albums asphyxiatingly somber tone is understandable, because by this same logic, Beck must have been getting a lot of sex while he was writing Vultures.

Concept master that Beck is, there is not a single ray of sunshine to spoil Sea Change. Though the opening lines of the first track, “The Golden Age” are “Grab on to the wheel, let the Golden Age begin,” there’s nothing golden about these twelve songs of heartbreak. In fact, Beck spends much of the album passive-aggressively crying into his guitar hole, such as when he says on “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” “It’s only tears that I’m crying / it’s only you that I’m losing / guess I’m doing fine.”

What Beck does best on this album is make himself sound alone with his guitar despite being backed by a full orchestra, especially on tracks like “Paper Tiger” and “Lonesome Tears.” Said orchestral sounds come in addition to the usual suspect sidemen that are drummer Joey Waronker and company. In fact, the string sections and occasional piano are the most in your face aspects of this album, as the strings do the screaming at the end of “Lonesome Tears” and the piano does the crying on “Little One.” In fact, there are only two un-Sea Change moments on Sea Change, the staticky epilogue of “Sunday Sun” and a shot of electric guitar on “Paper Tiger.”

VERDICT: Do not operate heavy machinery while listening to this album. What Mutations’ “Nobody’s Fault but My Own” began, this album finishes by pushing Beck’s melancholy to the extreme, and while you never hear him cry, the meticulous orchestration does it for him. If Sea Change is as ‘album of the year’ as many critics are wetting the bed insisting it is, then it’s been a sad year.
 
 


CD Info 

Beck: Sea Change
Label: DGC Records
Rating: 
 
Tracks:
The Golden Age 
Paper Tiger 
Guess I'm Doing Fine 
Lonesome Tears 
Lost Cause 
End Of The Day 
It's All In Your Mind 
Round The Bend 
Already Dead 
Sunday Sun 
Little One 
Side Of The Road
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online


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