Put down your e-meters, folks! Beck, the world’s most unlikely Scientologist, is back with a new album entitled Modern Guilt. Beck is a bit perplexing, but every so often he’ll release some truly brilliant single that reminds me he’s more than just a relic left over from ’90s West Coast slacker culture. There’s something about him that’s always been kinda cool.
Whatever you think of Beck, you can’t say he’s not musically diverse. On past efforts like the folk-rocky Sea Change, the experimental Midnite Vultures or even his previous release The Information he has exhibited a willingness to swerve in weird yet effective directions that most artists would consider unsafe territory. On Modern Guilt he delves straight into psychedelia, with a little help from producer Dangermouse, to create some tripped-out soundtracks that will sound good in any given stoner café in Amsterdam.
The title track is the best: a grainy-sounding, jangly tune replete with Beach Boys surfer guitar, rollicking piano and lyrics such as “Modern guilt/ Is all in our hands/ Modern guilt/ Won’t get me to bed/ Say what you will/ Smoking my cigarette/ Don’t know what I’ve done/ But I feel afraid.” There’s a weird paranoia here, a theme that runs through the disc’s 33 minutes. Not Beck’s best work, but it might be good for your hash cookie comedown. I still wonder if he’s invited to backyard barbecues with Tom and Katie though.