Beck: Modern Guilt

Beck’s new album Modern Guilt is an album that tries to escape your notice. It’s just over 40 minutes long, and each song is like a small, shrink-wrapped package containing a ready-made sandwich from Pret.

But that’s not to say it’s manufactured. DJ Danger Mouse’s producing job is nothing short of brilliant. Most other reviews will lampoon Beck for continuing down the path toward incoherence–Radar calls Modern Guilt a record “without a mission statement.” But for a reviewer who quite rightly ties Beck to break dancing, it’s amazing that they arrive at this conclusion.

Beck is rock music’s reaction to break dancing. And what Radar mistakenly believes is that Beck’s great records, namely Odelay and Sea Change, both have something called ‘mission statements’. A mission statement is not what these records have; it’s something much simpler: Swagger. And what makes Modern Guilt so great, even if it is a bit incoherent and sometimes uninspiring, is that it is Beck at his best: with all the glorious slacker swagger that made him so lovable to us at first.

A break dancer doesn’t announce his ‘mission’ when he hits the dance floor. He busts through the crowd and puts on moves. There’s no beginning or finish to a break dancer’s show; it’s really a matter of zen and energy. Everyone knows when a dancer will be done. It’s the same for Modern Guilt. You know this record can’t last long, and you can even see Beck clumsily transitioning from song-to-song like a break dancer struggles to transform himself elegantly from one move to another completely unrelated one.

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