Review Summary: That Beck
Beck is one of only a few artists from the 90s who’s remained both consistently successful and enduringly credible whilst also mixing up his sound on near enough every new release. In fact, you could argue the only time this chameleon appeared to lose his colour shifting abilities was on 2014’s ‘Morning Phase’, ironically the album which saw him showered with the most critical acclaim, even pocketing a Grammy for his troubles. The fact that snoozy artefact was little more than a retread of the ‘Bryter Layter’ worshipping ‘Sea Change’ made the award a somewhat baffling moment, but still, no one could argue Mr Hansen hadn't built up enough credits for a spot of belated career recognition. Best to chalk it up as a harmless anomaly and hope for business as usual on the next one. Well, the good news is that after that mild n' pedestrian offering the appropriately titled ‘Colors’ sees our chameleon back to full working operation, adopting a fresh multi-coloured skin for album number eleven. History would suggest this means all is well in the world of Beck, that we should be anticipating something unconventional and intriguing at the very least...oh how wrong can you be"
I’ll cut to the chase, this latest entry into the Beck canon is uncommonly offensive; this is a 'peeking between your fingers' car crash of epic proportions, an unmitigated failure on every level you approach it from. While you can applaud the artist for coming up with yet another complete reinvention, tragically the territory he's entered here is the least appropriate, most underwritten and supernaturally naff he could conceivably have chosen. There's nothing inherently wrong with a stalwart like Beck embracing current influences or trends of course, there's plenty of evidence out there to suggest that it could have worked well enough, only here it sounds far too much like MGMT and Taylor Swift had an unwanted lovechild...then said baby was unceremoniously dumped from the nearest balcony, thwacking his poor little head against every single branch of the stupid tree on the long way down to terra firma. The result is an experiment beyond all right-minded comprehension; it’s appeal confounding, it’s execution utterly bewildering. For sure this release can be labelled a genuine mystery, but thankfully the sort that can be solved with the simple flick of a stop button. For those with a stronger constitution and determined to sample all that the world has to offer, however atrocious, maestro let the music play on...
So where exactly do things start going awry on ‘Colors’" For starters, look no further than Mr Hansen’s vocals; this man patently doesn’t have a voice for energetic pop or pristine radio friendly ballad crooning. That’s all too clear to anyone possessed of two functioning ears (actually, even one working ear would probably suffice). His cheesy, uber-bland multi-tracked delivery on a song like ‘Fix Me’ is feeble and distressing to witness; his mismatched straight pop delivery on the title track or ‘Seventh Heaven’ are so much worse, woefully misjudged and bordering on witless. The song writing fares little better with Beck showing absolutely zero instinct for composing those all-important ginuwine honest to God pop hooks. Someone forgot to tell Sir that this is a totally different game to indie folk, or the eclectic styles he perfected on albums like ‘Odelay’ or 'Midnite Vultures'. No, without either his signature quirks or that more traditional genre indie folk compositional framework he’s soon floundering; it's my somber duty to inform you that not a single song here is in any way memorable, at least not in any sort of favourable way, and certainly not enough to be a pop hit.
I could continue listing the many failings of this release, providing evidence of how this man's entire artistic personality appears to have been whitewashed, or how his way with a witty line and unique sense of humour have both deserted him. I won’t do this though, it feels uncharitable to extend this post mortem beyond what is strictly necessary to impart the level of my dissatisfaction, especially for an artist of such pedigree who's proven himself countless times in the past. Perhaps this is the curse of being a born chameleon, you're always destined to turn an unappealing shade of technicolour vomit at one point or another in your lifespan, you just have to keep on moving and hope it's not a colour you settle on for long.