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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Beck: A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight

BECK: A WESTERN HARVEST FIELD BY MOONLIGHT (1994)

1) Totally Confused; 2) Mayonaise Salad; 3) Gettin' Home; 4) Blackfire Choked Our Death; 5) Feel Like A Piece Of Shit (Mind Control); 6) She Is All (Gimme Something To Eat); 7) Pinefresh; 8) Lampshade; 9) Feel Like A Piece Of Shit (Crossover Potential); 10) Mango (Vader Rocks!); 11) Feel Like A Piece Of Shit (Cheetos Time!); 12) Styro­foam Chicken (Quality Time).

A bit too long for a proper EP, seriously too short for a proper LP, this release probably deserves only a brief mention, mostly for housing Beck's first ever decently produced composition — a new version of ʽTotally Confusedʼ, with proper acoustic guitar, bass, percussion, and even some moody (but seemingly uncredited) female backup vocals for the sake of extra richness of experi­ence. It was already one of the most meaningful tracks on Golden Feelings, and here its lazy loser vibe is expanded with a helpful wave of tenderness. Other than that, this humble EP, limi­ted to 7,000 copies upon initial release (but each with its own unique finger-painting!), consists of the following audio elements:

— two more acoustic folk songs: ʽGettin' Homeʼ is the exact same version as the one on Golden Feelings, and ʽLampshadeʼ is a newly written guitar-and-harmonica ode to killing time that all the Jeff Lebowskis in the world would find very easy to identify with;

— three versions of the same, slightly disturbing, electronic loop (ʽFeel Like A Piece Of Shitʼ) taken at different speeds in order to illustrate the differences between different feelings of dif­ferent types of pieces of shit (my personal interpretation; I'm pretty sure there might be others, but who in his right mind would really bother?);

— several short pieces of randomized stuffing, including what sounds like absent-minded tuning prior to launching into a Spanish serenade (ʽPinefreshʼ), what sounds like a one-minute tribute to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music (ʽMayonaise Saladʼ), what sounds like an attempt at acoustic-based psychedelic folk mood piece (ʽMangoʼ), and what sounds like a never-ending noise loop (on the vinyl version) reminding you to switch off your turntable (ʽStyrofoam Chickenʼ).

In other words, it's just one of those «freedom-asserting» indie releases whose only function is of a reputational nature. It takes the guy exactly twenty minutes to let us know that (a) he will not be pigeonholed; (b) he will neither shy away from recording fart noises if his individuality requires such an act, nor from trying to sell them to us; (c) he does have talent, but it is entirely up to him if he wants or does not want to make use of it at any particular time. I get the message all right, but this time, I wouldn't let it fool me into declining a thumbs down reaction, even if it means lapsing back into old boring predictability. Serious Beck aficionados will need this to complete their collections — psychiatrists might need this as promising research material — the rest of us hardly need think of it even in terms of bare curiosity.

3 comments:

  1. I love Beck's output up until 2006's the Information. However, the stuff before he had any sort of record deal is less than mediocre. This album is so boring!

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  2. I'm very happy that you finally get to Beck. I don't really like his indie stuff. Once the indie stuff is over, he has a pretty good run from 1994's Mellow Gold to 2005's Guero.

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  3. Good to see you reviewing the early Beck albums. I cherish most of his early stuff, even Golden Feelings and his high school album "Banjo Story". I do agree that this album is mostly useless, though I do like Lampshade. My favorites are Stereopathetic Soulmanure, Mellow Gold and especially One Foot in the Grave. I'm probably one of the few people who thinks Odelay is a huge step down from Mellow Gold. The production gets sterile and the lyrics go from being nonsensical in a creative, whimsical way to just being plain meaningless.

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