Monday, February 4, 2008

Beck - Girl

(Interscope, 2005)

It occurs to me that my apartment has smelled of smoke for about 24 hours. It further occurs to me that my building burning down, with me and all my possessions in it, would seriously “cramp my style” when it comes to reviewing all of these crazy 7”s. Let me go sniff around.

[five minutes later] Good news: I’m back, and no more crispy than I was at the beginning of this review! No sign of a blaze, so I guess it must’ve just been one H*CK of a Super Bowl party – grillin’ and everything – by my downstairs neighbors. Hey, don’t ever stop a-rockin’, downstairs neighbors of mine! I know you won’t! NEVER!

Yeah, so… Beck.

The thing is, I don’t DISLIKE Guero or The Information. Honest. But I don’t – and can’t – LOVE them, either. See, you can use “crafted” as either a compliment or a sort of sneering insult, and both senses of the word apply to those records; Beck was putting a tremendous amount of effort and care into his songs, but while he was creating superficially pleasant music, most of it lacked the rollicking charm of his earlier material and was ultimately flabby and forgettable (betcha you can hum, say, seven songs off of Odelay. Can you do that for Guero or The Information??). What’s funny about that is it makes SINGLES the optimal way to experience latter-day Beck: Removed from the sonic Kansas of his endlessly-tinkered-with LPs, individual songs do have a chance to distinguish themselves as nifty little self-contained pop nuggets. “Girl” is definitely one of ’em. Those pop smarts are sharp as ever, the singing is strong, there’s the Dust Brother ultra-layered mix of homey/lo-fi guitar and blippy electronics over a locked-in beat… I mean, it’s all kinda over-perfect, but the melody is strong, and while, yeah, it all reeks of teacher-pleasin’ gymnastics, in the end it still scores a respectable B- or so. Sticks in the cranium for a while!

Oh, and remixes? OF COURSE! The skittery Octet version on the flip adds nervous percussive elements that, interestingly, illuminate some of the buried insecurity of the lyrics, but it’s musically unfocused, doesn’t sustain listenability, and is in no way built for repeated plays. Thing shows up on the Guerolito remix LP anyway, so no need to get too hot for this 7”, unless picture discs hold some sort of special fascination.

By which I mean: Do they? Is that your thing? Let’s meet!

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