Let's get one thing staright before we begin this review of "Guero," the new album from Beck: There are a lot of Beck songs I don't like, but "Guero" is an album worth writing about: Rolling Stone magazine has already praised with a four-star review.
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I first heard of Beck (Beck Hansen) in 1996, when Johnny Cash recorded his song "Rowboat" for his album, "Unchained." Well, I decided to check Beck out; he had just released his first proper studio album, "Odelay." Until then his work had had a homemade quality to it and could be best discribed as "Out There." But that's what was appealing to me about it; his good stuff was funny and funky and, well, indiscribably delicious. Beck's bad stuff was...pretty bad.
Beck burst on the alternative radio scene with his slacker anthem called "Loser" in 1994. The slacker handle still lingers, but his latest album, "Guero" (pronouced wear-o, Spanish slang for white-boy) is anything but slackerfied.
Beck, now 34, married and the father of a nine-month-old-son named Cosimo, is making music that reflects his personal and musical maturity. "Guero" (his ninth album), follows on-the-heals of his 2002 release called "Sea Change," an album that was celebrated for its quiet, reflective, almost heartbreaking nature.
"Guero" is not "Sea Change" revisited, but is filled with drums and bass and hard guitar riffs and strange dark lyrics. The opening song, "E-Pro," is currently a top-five singles hit. But by favorite song (at least as I write this now) is a bouncy bossa nova flavored number called "Missing": "I prayed heaven today/bring its hammer down on me/and pound you out of my head/I can't think with you in it."
Other favorites are "Black Tambourine" and "Hell Yes."
"Guero comes in two editions: a standard 13 song CD and a deluxe package including a CD with 7 bonus tracks and remixes and a DVD.
I give "Guero" 4.5 out of 5.