Certainly my favourite thing Beck has ever done is his song for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind called “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” a cover of a song by The Korgis. I love that song as a part of that most brilliant film and as a piece of beautiful music. Jon Brion’s production on it brings his usual melancholic organ fiddlings, adding to the gorgeous atmosphere. It is a song of disappointment and sorrow. There is a rawness to Beck’s vocals which communicate this perfectly.
Beck’s latest album Morning Phase, ploughs a similar melancholic furrow to that song and his work on the album Sea Change. The pun on morning / mourning in the title should be a clear indication of the mood. It has a short 40 second instrumental introduction to the album, a sombre mood-setter called “Cycle” which resembles a short snippet of Sigur Rós. There are upbeat moments to the album, like the single “Blue Moon”. But it has the sort of atmosphere of a song being upbeat in spite of something terrible. The album ends with a song called “Waking Light” the beginning of which sounds remarkably and strangely like the beginning of McCartney and Wings’ Bond Theme “Live and Let Die”. Beck’s effort has none of the explosive excitement that the Bond theme develops, however, choosing to stay with those opening melancholic moments.
This is not the Beck of Midnight Vultures. The absurd grandstanding trumpets and banjo of “Sexx Laws” are on another planet all together. His lyrics have the same softer, subtler edge as the music. If you prefer the louder, bouncier, more explicit word-play of his work, you may find Morning Phase difficult. Perhaps because I am more serious person myself, this is the Beck I prefer. He has built a similar atmosphere to a Sigur Rós album, introspective and soothing. The lyrics are interesting and beautiful, but not as playful or in your face as something from Midnight Vultures.
Give it a go, but maybe don’t listen to it all day long for a week, you might get a bit depressed.