People with one name always seem to be more indulgent than normal two named people. Madonna
ís gone from making controversial videos, to making porn books, riding on the coattails of the í98 electronica scene, writing childrenís books, and whoring Kabbalah. Cherís gotten so much plastic surgery, that she once substituted for Michael Jackson
ís nose at the last minute for a sleepover birthday party. Morrissey
Ö well, heís pop cultureís drunk, and disgruntled aunt. Finally, thereís Beck, who isnít as messed up as the people mentioned before, but his hipster gallivanting of genres has made him worthy of his one name stature. One Foot in the Grave
is an early taste of Beck, but itís still got that Beck wackiness we all know and love. Or hate. It all depends on oneís views of Scientologists.
Beckís weapon of choice for this album is folk, a genre that heís played with quite dominantly throughout his career. Though in his later works he casually mixes all sorts of genres on his breakthrough album Mellow Gold
, on this final indie release, Beck keeps it fairly simple. Maybe not so much simple, as it is traditional, as Beck grew up listening to folk heroes like Woody Guthrie
, and Leadbelly
. With these influences pushed up front on the record, most of the songs are steadily paced, lead by Beckís out-of-tune guitar. The lo-fi streak of production actually does these rickety tunes justice.
Despite the stripped down edge the album has, One Foot in the Grave
shows Beckís unique style of nonchalant surrealist lyrics as well as his later works. With the shaky, deadpan delivery of lines like, ďThe world is your oyster/And the trash bags are your kids,"
itís known Beckís abstract charm has a strong presence in all of the songs. Though these lyrics may seem about as meaningful as a stoned beatnikís poetry, Beck actually gets the themes of his songs across very well with the bizarre motif of his lyrics. A more serious side, though still somewhat playful, is revealed in songs like Asshole
and Girl Dreams
. Dealing with relationships, they present a more connectable side of Beck, such as the ďweíve all been there" nature of, ďSheíll do anything to make you feel like an asshole"
. It sounds like Beck actually means it too, unlike the wry, but nevertheless classic line "Iím a loser baby, so why donít you kill me?"
that put the Los Angeles native on the map.
Letís give Beck some credit, he has
to have some tricks up his sleeve. And of course there are. A couple of noisy freak outs get onto the album, like a small anarchy. Instead of a beat-up acoustic guitar, fuzzy, chaotic electric strings jump out like an ambush. Burnt Orange Peel
sound like the party song for an album thatís not supposed to let loose at all, complete with out-of-sync guitar and drum collaboration, and WOOHOO!s littered over top the singing. Ziplock Bag
is slow-paced, and is really just a dissonant, and fuzzy folk song, with painfully growled vocals by someone who is too manly to be Beck.
Initially, I thought this album was garbage. It sounded like a bunch of half-baked folk songs with two insane breaks of noise, so it might be a grower for a lot of people. Despite not being as varied as Beckís more well-known album, thereís still variety within these acoustic songs. This includes the porch blues of Heís a Might Good Leader
, the country tinged Painted Eyelids
, the pensive, subdued Forcefield
, and the subtle hip-hop influence of Outcome
. Alas, it still doesnít awe like his commercial peak, Odelay!
, the masterful folk of Sea Change
, or the Prince
laden funk of Midnite Vultures
. One Foot in the Grave
shows another style that Beck can handle fairly well, if not too sporadically. Better than any folk Madonna or Cher could do.