Review Summary: Uneventful Songs
It’s weird to think Beck has taken such a hard right turn with his music. Known as a true chameleon of rock, the man established himself on mixing a vast collection of genres and styles on his records (often on the same song), from hip-hop, folk, funk, blues, noise, electronica - you name it and he’s probably dabbled in it. Each Beck album is distinct and different from the scratchy lo-fi rumblings of ‘Mellow Gold’ to the mournful and mature ‘Sea Change’, and so on and so forth. He’s never stuck to a certain style, which is why 2017’s ‘Colors’, While certainly a confusing turn around, still felt fresh. Sure it was a straightforward modern pop album that didn’t take any risks with itself, but with Beck, it felt like another chapter in his strange and wild discography. But ‘Hyperspace’... feels like a step back.
Co-Produced by Pharrell Williams, Hyperspace seems to follow down the path Colors took in being a very accessible poppy record, though instead of relying on dance floor ready beats, it’s instead layered with synths and drum machines to create what feels like the comedown from Colors’ mad rave up. It’s a mellow album, never getting too heavy or wild, instead always sitting comfortably at easy tempos and dreamy melodies. “But wait!” I hear you say “Doesn’t this make it stand out from his other work?”. Well, yes and no. Sure, Hyperspace is a rather calming and pleasant record and its synthpop beats and sounds make it another part of the man’s ever growing smorgasbord of style, but it’s also, frankly, boring. Now, I’m all up for a sweet late night drive record and honestly, if Beck made a full on chill out ambient pop album, I’d be all over that. But the problem here is that Hyperspace just feels empty. There isn’t much driving force or creativity going into this one which sucks given how Beck is generally regarded as one of the most original and creative minds in music. Tracks mush together into long continuous lumps of dreary synthesised boredom (‘Die Waiting and See Through’ are the two most egregious examples of this) and Beck himself sounds skull ***ed bored through nearly the whole thing. Even on the album’s most lively and bouncy cut, the awful ‘Saw Lightning’, he sounds like he’s barely keeping himself awake. And hey, maybe that was the point, maybe it creates a nice chilled atmosphere, but would it kill him to just emote a little?
Now it’s not all bad, I can assure you. ‘Chemical’ is a nice pysch pop number where Beck actually sounds like he’s interested and the closer ‘Everlasting Nothing’ breaks away from the dreariness and monotony of the rest of the album with its gospel tinged sound. Plus, the penultimate track ‘Star’ offers a nice trip hop beat and a vaguely dance ready groove. But that’s slim pickings. It’s an issue when the cover art is more cool and interesting than most of the album, and even then it’s just Beck and a car. A sad and boring end to a fairly solid decade from one of Rock’s brightest creators. Oh well, maybe he’ll wake up next time.
Standout tracks: Chemical, Star, Everlasting Nothing