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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Beck
Guero
Geffen Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


March 31, 2005
There are times when you anticipate something so much that it will never be enjoyed nearly to the level that you'd hoped. It is not that these desires are wrongly placed, or that the object of your desire is inadequate, but when reality doesn't match your expectations everything seems unjustly insufficient.

Such a situation occurred just a year ago when Beastie Boys released To the 5 Boroughs after six years without a formal full length album. In 2004, B-Boy faithfuls expected a career-redefining album on the same level of Paul's Boutique, or Ill Communication. Instead they got a respectable album that was solid but slow to garner the same respect.

After three years since his last release - the melancholic Sea Change - Beck finds himself in a similar state. It is strictly coincidental that Beck's latest recording Guero chooses to sample a Beastie Boys drumbeat (from "So What'cha Want") in the opening track, "E-Pro," and uses the Beasties' old production team, the Dust Brothers. It is also a coincidence that, like To the 5 Boroughs, Guero doesn't blow anyone away with cutting edge material but it also doesn't disappoint.

There are some who have already speculated that this album isn't a good one. Such talk is uninformed opinion from those who did not give it a decent listen. Furthermore, many critics get stuck on comparing current works to those in an artist's past. By this case, there will never be another Odelay or Sea Change, not from Beck or anyone else.

Yet overall, Guero does feel as if it accepts a mature admiration for the days of Odelay and Midnight Vultures. This is Beck in his classic form - somehow fusing together elements of hip-hop rhyming and sampling, psychedelic folksiness, soulful crooning and instrumentation (including orchestral balladry), and a fuzzy rock abrasiveness that was originally launched with 1994's Mellow Gold.

One must realize that this album was created to be fresh but not necessarily edgy. The difference means that the effort is intended to be highly enjoyable but not breakthrough material. At this point in Beck's career this much is acceptable. Guero is a calculated mix of songs and, on a smaller level, a jumble of samples and instrumentation. What results from such production values are tracks crammed with mountains of ideas and styles, and simple yet infectious thumping break beats to gather it all back to a groove-able root.

This style of pop songwriting doesn't mean that the album is conceptual or of one bland sameness. In fact, Beck's attitude and descriptions vary subtly among tracks. While "E-Pro" is styled around the Beastie Boys groove (much like a remix would), there are tracks that are unexpected and welcome departures from the basic hip-hop paradigm - laydown of beat, rap, chorus, beat break, rap - that he often employs. Instead, cuts run amok like in "Missing" where Beck's voice is pitted into an Astrud Gilberto role, in front of Latin acoustic guitar strumming and a bossanova groove. Beck comes off as laid back and almost contemplative, relaxing his vocal melody around the groove. Additionally fitting is a string arrangements and familiar hip-hop beat that shows itself as the overall coalescing agent for the 13-song affair.

Just as all other Beck releases, Guero has its high and low points. Though from "Que Onda Guero" (which further exhibits an affection for Spanish diction) to "Go It Alone" (which features guest bass player Jack White) there are few, if any, weak moments - especially strong are songs like "Hell Yes" and "Girl," which capitalize on '80s break dancing nostalgia and rustic acoustic pop, respectively.

If anyone else had released this album they would be receiving critical praise from every corner of the journalistic map. However, since it is Beck, we must sit back and accept what he has dropped on us, nodding our heads to the fresh gringo beats along the way.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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