|Beck - Sea Change|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 24 September 2002|
There are two kinds of Beck fans. There are those who have been following his career even before the days when he first broke into the mainstream with his first hit song "Loser." These diehards haves all of his indie releases, and B-sides and feel he can do no wrong. Then there are the Beck fans who forgot he existed post-"Loser" until they heard his songs gracing Fox television promos for shows like "That 70's Show" and "Malcolm In the Middle." It was Beck’s stunning Prince-inspired album Midnight Vultures that brought these fans into the Beck fan club. If Midnight Vultures is all you know of Beck's work, chances are that you will find Sea Change a huge disappointment.
Much like his ultra down-tempo 1998 release Mutations that followed the funky album Odelay, we find Beck standing on a musical baseball diamond, pitching his fans a major curveball. Do not think for one second that you're going to find anything even remotely funky here. What you are in store for with Sea Change is Beck singing quasi-country, acoustic folk songs, with lots of steel guitars and not much more.
The songwriting is that of a confident musician who isn't afraid to expose himself to the world and, although I can appreciate the concept of Sea Change as a statement of Beck as an artist, I longed to hear him getting funky just a little bit. Sorely absent from Sea Change is the stream of consciousness humor that you'd expect from Beck.
The beautiful lullaby melody and backward sound effects on "Lost Cause" make this my favorite track on the album. The finger-picked guitar line does more to establish the rhythm of the song than the lightly stuck drums, played with soft brushes rather than sticks. Nothing ever gets too loud or too fast on Sea Change. To get an idea of what it sounds like, think Beck meets Jim Croce or Cat Stevens.
Several of the songs on Sea Change such as "Paper Tiger" and "Lonesome Tears" feature string section accompaniment and seem like they should be on the soundtrack to a Paul Thomas Anderson film or anything from any young hip director who hangs out in Silverlake, the alternative hipster capital of Los Angeles. Sea Change is a totally Silverlake album. In Silverlake, it's all about doing stuff that is really uncool, like releasing an almost country album when everyone expects you to release a funky alternative rock album. By doing something so quirky and seemingly uncool, Beck has actually done the coolest thing he could do. If you are confused, you should be. It's hard to keep up with what is cool in Silverlake.
Sea Change will either put you to sleep with its soft, edgeless sound, or will captivate you if you are into hearing the evolution of one of the most creative artists to come along in the last 10 to 15 years. I fall right in the middle in my opinion of Beck. I feel he is a musical genius and I give him an A+ for effort, but it’s just hard to get overly excited about Sea Change.