Happy 15th "Birthday" to Beck’s Guero
On his first album released after 2002’s mostly acoustic and introspective Sea Change, Beck Hansen played the Mr. Hyde card like he had done several times before in his career and shifted gears back into funky alternative rock party mode. This time around he enlisted old compadres the Dust Brothers (Odelay) and Tony Hoffer (Midnight Vultures) to help produce and reassert his title as King of The Oddball Sample, a throne that only he and the Beastie Boys (who also lend a hand on opener E-Pro) really ever contended for in this genre. By this time in his career one thing was abundantly clear, Beck was not living up to the moniker of “loser” that he sang about on his most recognizable hit. On the contrary, he was proving to be a genre blending musical chameleon. The kind of artist that comes along once a generation to remind the world that sometimes its okay to cry but that its equally important to dance and have a good time.
Guero could have just sounded like the sum of its parts but Beck’s attention to detail and penchant for elevated songcraft raise the songs to another level. The album is filled with finely tuned blips and bleeps, synth noise, and electronic drum machines that don’t fight for attention but feel right at home next to acoustic guitars, three-part vocal harmonies and folk-country influenced guitar solos. “E-Pro” kicks things off like a mission statement letting listeners know this is Beck’s return to fun after the depression of Sea Change. The chorus of “na na na na na na na” is not only easy to remember, but sung in a manner that it will stay in the listeners head long after the song is over. Elsewhere, Beck spits rhymes over future-funk bass lines (“Hell Yes”), gets his Spanglish on (“Que Onda Guero”), and shares cool points with Jack White who plays bass on the chilled out “Go It Alone”. “Guero” is full of memorable moments and is well worth a listen 15 years out from its initial release.