Review Summary: One-hit wonder? I don't think so.
With “Loser”, Beck managed to write and record one of the best songs of the 90’s. It was funny, original, fascinating, and represented the decade better than any other song I can think of (other than “Teen Spirit”, of course). Not only was the song good, though. Mellow Gold, the album it was attached to, was like a masterpiece of weird. An interesting, and original (hard to write a Beck review without using that word a couple times) work of art that didn’t contain a single lagging track. Still, Beck releasing both a fantastic single and a fantastic album wasn’t enough to keep the naysayers from naysaying. The term “one-hit wonder” seemed to be included in every review, discussion, and article on Beck. Was he going to be another Timbuk3 or Soft Cell? Could he get past the success of “Loser”?
Well, now we know that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Much like Radiohead, Beck not only got past his early success; he gave the metaphorical finger to his naysayers by releasing some of the best albums of recent years. Thinking about it now, however, it seems like it was inevitable that he would become the genius of his generation. I mean, at the time, it might have seemed like a “How is he gonna follow up on that?” scenario, but I don’t think that somebody could write a song that great without having something else up their sleeves. Listening to Odelay, I know one thing: Beck has huge sleeves.
Odelay opens with “Devil’s Haircut”, a song that must have made everybody who doubted him bow their heads in shame. It’s an amazing song and, while it certainly doesn’t give “Loser” a run for its money, it opens the album perfectly; almost as if Beck is saying, “I’m still here.” Track 2 is “Hotwax”, a track that goes completely insane with its production. “Devil’s Haircut” is a great opener, but this track gets you into gear for the rest of the album. “Lord Only Knows” has a gorgeous melody, and gets you settled down a bit, after the insanity of “Hotwax”.
The album’s best tracks, as far as I’m concerned, are “Where It’s At”, “The New Pollution”, and “Jack-Ass”. But, with this album, picking out favorite tracks is pointless. Much like There’s a Riot Goin’ On or Electric Ladyland, Odelay works so well as a whole that picking out favorite songs is like picking out favorite lines from a screenplay: sure, you may like the line best, but it isn’t quite as great when you take it out of context. Odelay is the kind of album that has to be listened to, from beginning to end, with no interruptions. Listen to the production closely, and hear how much detail is there. Listen to the way the songs flow into one another perfectly. Then, listen to “Where It’s At” on its own. It’s still good, but it’s just not as good.
I’m not sure if Beck heard people call his song a one-hit wonder, and was determined to prove them wrong, or if it just worked out this way, but Odelay is Beck’s masterpiece. It doesn’t feature one song that doesn’t have a purpose; no moment is pointless. It’s a perfect album and, although Beck has yet to surpass it, that’s okay. If I ever recorded an album this good, I’d probably spend the rest of my life sitting in a chair, knowing that I had made an impact on this world.