People with one name always seem to be more indulgent than normal two named people. Madonna
’s gone from making controversial videos, to making porn books, riding on the coattails of the ’98 electronica scene, writing children’s books, and whoring Kabbalah. Cher’s gotten so much plastic surgery, that she once substituted for Michael Jackson
’s nose at the last minute for a sleepover birthday party. Morrissey
… well, he’s pop culture’s drunk, and disgruntled aunt. Finally, there’s Beck, who isn’t 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 it’s still got that Beck wackiness we all know and love. Or hate. It all depends on one’s views of Scientologists.
Beck’s weapon of choice for this album is folk, a genre that he’s 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 Beck’s 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 Beck’s unique style of nonchalant surrealist lyrics as well as his later works. With the shaky, deadpan delivery of lines like, “The world is your oyster/And the trash bags are your kids,”
it’s known Beck’s abstract charm has a strong presence in all of the songs. Though these lyrics may seem about as meaningful as a stoned beatnik’s 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 “we’ve all been there” nature of, “She’ll do anything to make you feel like an asshole”
. It sounds like Beck actually means it too, unlike the wry, but nevertheless classic line ”I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?”
that put the Los Angeles native on the map.
Let’s 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 that’s 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 Beck’s more well-known album, there’s still variety within these acoustic songs. This includes the porch blues of He’s a Might Good Leader
, the country tinged Painted Eyelids
, the pensive, subdued Forcefield
, and the subtle hip-hop influence of Outcome
. Alas, it still doesn’t 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.