BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Beck: Modern Guilt (DGC)

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Beck: Replica
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Beck: Modern Guilt (DGC)

For my money there are only two indispensible Beck albums: Odelay of '96 and Mutations of two years later. That said, there are another couple I'd prefer not to live without -- and this one produced by Danger Mouse shapes up to be one of those, and is still climbing in stature on repeat plays.
As always this gifted, musical changeling and sonic shapeshifter filterfeeds his way through noir-psychedelic and punchy pop, eerie but constrained prog-rock (if you can do prog in under three minutes), layered electro-ballads and much more besides.
There is a customary unease in the lyrics which on songs like Walls (with guest vocals by Cat Power) is married to some appropriately disconcerting sounds. At times this suggests Beck's mellowing memory of Bowie's experimental Lodger which has been filtered through his weave and weft of tape loops and odd musical intrusions (the Indo touches on Replica, the chugging Fripprock guitars on Soul of a Man).
At a mere 35 minutes Modern Guilt is also as economic as it is dense.
On any countback Beck has rarely disappointed and on this often musically witty but lyrically disconcerting outing he keeps the innovation/satisfaction count high. Got pop songs too.

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