Sunday, December 18, 2011

CD Odyssey Disc 348: Beck

It would seem my bold claim that I'll be doing more reviews will have to wait until after the holiday season. Between work and the many social engagements that crop up around Christmas I have had zero free time lately. On the plus side, this next album has received a lot of listens since I haven't had time to review it and replace it with the next one.

Disc 348 is...Midnite Vultures

Artist: Beck

Year of Release: 1999

What’s Up With The Cover?: That's a good question. I think this cover is trying to suggest a party vibe, but all I get is a vaguely weird music video made in a booth at the mall.

How I Came To Know It: I have known Beck since "Mellow Gold," but this particular record is a favourite of my friend Nick, who often suggested I get it. After many years of foolishly not taking his advice, I finally did so about six or seven years ago.

How It Stacks Up: I have eight Beck albums, which is most of them, and certainly all of the major releases.

Rating: 4 stars

Anyone who knows Beck knows that he is never afraid to reinvent his sound, and each of his albums has a distinct sound. "Midnite Vultures" is no exception (note that as an American, Beck enjoys misspelling 'midnight').

In this case, Beck has decided to meld his vaguely techno beats with a very strong funk influence. This is an album so funky in fact, that George Clinton would be proud of what is accomplished. Sometimes the funky riffs are driven by traditional r&b instrumentation, and soulful singing, and other times he relies on sampled sounds and drum-machine sounds you might expect to hear on a techno-record. Whatever the blend, it works to get your feet moving and your head bobbing.

While "Midnite Vultures" isn't my favourite Beck album, I think it is the most musical. He can sometimes add in strange sound samples just to be clever, but on "Midnite Vultures" every odd whistle, whirr and vibrating spring is only there if it makes the song flow better. I wish Beck had taken the same approach on the more expiremental "Odelay," but as noted earlier, he isn't an artist that likes to do the same thing twice.

If you are looking for a deep and meaningful message, or some deeper insight into the human condition then this record will disappoint you. This record is one big hedonistic journey: a record about partying, best suited for playing while partying. This is not in any way intended to be an insult; "Midnite Vultures" is one of the best party albums you'll hear.

I've been walking to and from work listening to this album for three days and have heard it at least four times through. I like it more and more with each listen, but I also have less to say about it with each listen.

"Midnite Vultures" is a record where you'll hear how much fun it is to mix together 'peaches and cream', 'milk and honey' and (surprisingly) 'nicotine and gravy'. You'll also have explained how it feels to 'sit around and get real paid' and just what 'hollywood freaks' do when no one is looking (answer: have a very good time). The most serious Beck gets is on "Debra", a song that Ron Burgundy would call "baby-making music," that sounds like it could've been written in 1975 and topped the R&B charts. In the song Beck soullfully croons in falsetto to his girl, Jenny:

"I wanna get with you - you, you, you...
And your sister - I think her name's Debra."

So, yeah - not very serious at all. But not everything in life has to be serious. "Midnite Vultures" is a fine reminder that in a serious world full of serious problems, there should always be room for some fuschia pvc pants and a catchy beat.

Best tracks: Nicotine & Gravy, Mixed Bizness, Peaches & Cream, Milk & Honey, Beautiful Way, Debra

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