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An Album You Must Own: Odelay

posted Mar 26, 2011, 7:20 PM by Golden Knight   [ updated Mar 29, 2011, 2:07 PM ]

Posted in Music

By Christian Romo

September 13, 2010

The nonsensical debut single “Loser” propelled Beck, then a young, skinny, seemingly talent less Angelino into a position left vacant in the wake of the death of Kurt Cobain: the representative voice of Generation X. His dark and angst ridden debut album, Mellow Gold, was as original as anything ever released (and sometimes flirted with the border as to what was considered to be music). The curious alternative youth of America accepted and relished his obscene storytelling and wall of noise, but critics panned the album who considered Beck to be nothing more than a passing fad.

                Beck’s second album Odelay would later become one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 90’s. The first track off the album, “Devil’s Haircut”, showed that he had no intention of relinquishing his sound or writing head scratching lyrics (the basis of a later episode of Futurama). What Beck was intent on doing, however, was actual musical arrangement.

                Whether you like the good times whistle prior to “Sissyneck” or the intro to “The New Pollution” (which is a cross between a Marry Poppins ditty and Galaga) is regardless; they are just examples of the many quirks of Beck’s wall that keeps you interested in the music.

                With that said, the number of hooks in Beck’s repertoire rivals a Beyonce album. His first single, “Where It’s At”, flows seamlessly from microphone feedback to a robot break-dance fight to steel guitars. He also shows a sensitive side with the front-porch folk ballad “Ramshackle”, a preview of what he would accomplish with his later release Sea Change.

                Beck certainly wasn’t looking for continuity (and songs like “High 5” make you wonder if he was even looking to make music at all), but his creativity is undeniable. He showed no reluctance to use any sounds possible in any place possible, an admirable gimmick that borders on genius.

                His voice is below average. His lyrics? The closing line of Lord Only Knows says it all: “Going back to Houston/to do the hotdog dance/going back to Houston/to get me some pants.”

                Odelay is not an album that can be lyrically dissected and debated, but the originality in its composition is timeless and established Beck as an artist that will be challenging our musical thoughts for generations to come.