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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Beck: Stereopathetic Soulmanure


1) Pink Noise (Rock Me Amadeus); 2) Rowboat; 3) Thunder Peel; 4) Waitin' For A Train; 5) The Spirit Moves Me; 6) Crystal Clear (Beer); 7) No Money No Honey; 8) 8.6.82; 9) Total Soul Future (Eat It); 10) One Foot In The Grave; 11) Aphid Manure Heist; 12) Today Has Been A Fucked Up Day; 13) Cut 1/2 Blues; 14) Jagermeister Pie; 15) Ozzy; 16) Dead Wild Cat; 17) Satan Gave Me A Taco; 18) 8.4.82; 19) Tasergun; 20) Modesto; 21) Ken; 22) Bonus Noise.

Apparently, this was released on the independent Flipside label just one week prior to Mellow Gold — reflecting Beck's strange fluctuation between his «accessible» and «batshit» sides that kept going all through 1994. The most brilliant thing about the record is its title, which more or less adequately reflects its contents — however, this is also the perfect album to get for those who are curious about Beck's darker side, but are reluctant to engage in completism. At the very least, this piece of product is a little better structured, and certainly much better produced, than Golden Feelings. I could even understand somebody actually liking it, rather than shrugging shoulders and asking, « this really what we were fighting the rock'n'roll revolution for?..»...

...which is not to say that I like it, not in the least. The huge number of tracks is justified by their unpredictable diversity — we have everything here, from acoustic blues to country to garage rock to electronica to samples running wild, but, as usual, everything is so utterly experimental that failures, by far, outweigh successes. There is a lot of ideas — and a brave, but fatal refusal to ela­borate on any of them. As in, something like ʽOzzyʼ will start out as a moody acoustic rock piece, built around a sarcastic lambasting of the title character (yes, I suppose it is that Ozzy: one can hardly err, with lines like "there's mascara bleeding out of your eyes" and "there's a giant chicken claw above your head"), but ultimately consists of a basic strum, an echoey "Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy", and a mumbled, seemingly improvised recital. There is a tiny seed of ironic greatness somewhere in here, but it is not given any time to grow.

More or less finalized pieces here include two plaintive country ballads (ʽRowboatʼ, ʽModestoʼ) that sound a little like Neil Young parodies (and we could always use a good Neil Young parody, that's for sure); the Sonic Youth-style noise-rock-fest ʽTasergunʼ, rather pointless if you already know and love Sonic Youth; the pseudo-Piedmont blues of ʽCrystal Clear (Beer)ʼ; and probably the album opener, ʽPink Noiseʼ, which has really nothing in common with ʽRock Me Amadeusʼ, despite being subtitled that way, and once again plunges us into noise territory, this time arguably reminiscent more of the original Velvet Underground with its drunk guitar swoops. But even all of these «accomplished» pieces wobble between «parody», «homage», and «drunken hooliganry» rather than making some autonomous point of their own. They do sound sharper and clearer than they used to before, enhancing the illusion of «accomplishment».

Wrapped around these pieces are interminable snippets of acoustic (anti-)folk, harmonica and violin drones, warped vocals imitating either Tom Waits or a blind pre-war blueswailer, chain­saws, news reports, and assorted freakouts — if you really force yourself to pay attention, one or two of these bits may come across as funny, but that's just me being overtly optimistic. Further­more, as if all this random crap (or, Beckademically-speaking, «soulmanure») over the main body of the album weren't enough, there are 16 more minutes of «hidden» ʽBonus Noiseʼ tacked to the end — enjoy, and have a nice day.

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of fun listening to this album, and I think "Satan Gave Me a Taco" and "Thunder Peel" are great. However, there's nothing here that really suggests how well he can mix genres the way he does later on. I like this album, but it is objectively pretty bad.