The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Because

Posted by Matt on August 8, 2009

This is something that must be done. That is, me ranking all of Beck’s major studio albums in order of preference! I can do this, because I’ve actually listened to them enough to form coherent thoughts about them.

1. Sea Change
2. Mutations
3. Midnite Vultures
4. Odelay
5. Guero
6. The Information
7. Modern Guilt
8. Mellow Gold

One could accuse me of picking Sea Change as my favorite because everyone else does, and to that I say nay. Divorced of most of his defining elements, Beck really shows his raw talent on it, and that’s what I come for. Nearly every song on the album is affecting in ways few others I’ve listened to have been (with ‘Lonesome Tears’ and ‘Guess I’m Doing Fine’ being my two picks of the best examples), with every element coming together to create this really downtrodden atmosphere (yes, Beck wore IRL on his sleeve for this one, as I’m sure you’ve heard). So yes, beyond the natter of the music opinion elite, its a great fucking album.

Mutations is a lot more like Sea Change than bith the albums surrounding it, in that many of the songs rely on Beck’s pure instrumental and lyrical talent, but it’s not too far into melancholy or tradition. You got ‘Tropicalia’, which is a nutso piece composed of 7000 instruments like Beck’s ‘party album’ stuff and is pretty much on par with his greats, alongside more restrained tracks like ‘Nobody’s Fault But My Own’. You even get something really twangy with ‘Canceled Check’. It’s pretty much all of Beck’s strengths compiled into one incredibly cohesive album, which is a feat unto itself.

There might be some debate about whether Midnite Vultures or Odelay is the better of Beck’s most ‘Beck’ albums. To be truthful, Odelay has most of Beck’s most memorable songs, but I think overall it doesn’t quite come together as well as Midnite Vultures, which is an insane album that never lets up. Both are great and essential albums. Whoever called Midnite Vultures one of the worst albums ever (it will be on Wikipedia, but I don’t feel like looking up who it was) can die.

Guero was a return to form after the radical departure of Sea Change, and like Odelay/Midnite Vultures, it is just an all-around fun album to listen to. There isn’t a weak track on here; everything is able to keep up the funky beat. I can see why this was the first Beck album in a while that seemed to have a more mainstream presence (‘E-Pro’ has been all over the place, I’ve noticed), because hey, even people who aren’t into alt-rock can enjoy stuff like this.

The Information is kind of like Mutations with more of standard Beck thrown in. It’s very weird, going from some lower-key stuff early on (especially ‘Think I’m in Love’, one of the album’s best songs) to upbeat oddities like ‘Cellphone’s Dead’ and ‘Nausea’, and gets even weirder at the end. Some of that later stuff doesn’t sit as well with me, but overall I still really like it.

My first listen-through of Modern Guilt wasn’t too great – I thought the whole thing felt a bit dry. Further listens softened my initial reaction, as I was suddenly able to pick out some of the really good tracks (‘Chemtrails’, ‘Volcano’, ‘Youthless’). In the end, it has more good more than not-good, but it doesn’t have much in the way of great material. It is a slightly weaker album, all things considered, but that doesn’t deter me from liking it.

Mellow Gold, on the other hand, I really can’t get into. ‘Loser’ is still as great as it always was, and there’s a couple more good songs on here like ‘Pay No Mind (Snoozer)’. But this seems like a learning experience for Beck, and some of the songs feel a little too twee and odd-but-not-in-the-good-way. This is basically an early prototype for Odelay, and I don’t think it is essential listening unless you’re a completist.

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