- 22 Nov 19
In the twenty-five years since Beck announced himself with 'Loser', he has been nothing if not interesting, and often quite brilliant (Odelay, Sea Change, Morning Phase). He’s on another winner here. Written and produced, for the most part, with the park-ranger-hat-wearing-prancer, Pharrell Williams, it’s a more subdued affair than 2017’s Colors, and all the better for it. Beck has said that working with Williams "very different from any situation that I’ve ever made music in. There’s a very particular energy. Things happen very fast and there’s not a lot of second-guessing, which is great."
After the Eno-ey introductory ‘Hyperlife’, featuring the first of Beck’s superb vocals, ‘Uneventful Days’ continues along slightly ambient lines and finds our man bemoaning either a failing relationship or the fleeting nature of inspiration. Either way, it’s a great single and sounds as au courant as today’s paper. Which makes the slide acoustic guitar on ‘Saw Lightning’ more jarring, but in a good way. The lyrics - with Williams giving it a bit of ooh-ooh - point towards some sort of biblical St. Paul on the road flash of light.
‘Die Waiting’ melds a treated Eighties electric guitar riff and acoustic chords before a near-falsetto chorus with an “I’ll love you forever” lyric, love is the drug in the acoustic electronica of ‘Chemical’, and ‘See Through’ floats away on keyboard waves as the percussion pattern bobs on the surface.
The title track features Terrell Hines on vocals, channelling André 3000, and there’s another guest in the form of Chris Martin on ‘Stratosphere’, which could pass for one of Coldplay’s better moments, if that’s not a musical oxymoron. ‘Dark Places’ and ‘Star’ are more variations on the sonics that preceded them and closer ‘Everlasting Nothing’ brings the acoustic guitar back up – before the synths overpower it – and goes out with a glorious choral finish.
The production and the ever-present keyboards and treatments might sound cold on paper, but this is a warm record, which seems to combine the best of analogue and digital. A pretty good trick, but nothing less than you’d expect from the man.