Tag Archives: beck

Sound ‘Round: Beck / Drive-By Truckers

Returns to form
Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol)
beck - morning phaseThis gestated return is comparable to 2002’s Sea Change but not the outright sequel some critics have proclaimed. Having long lost the will to funk, he’s once again refashioned himself as a sad-eyed wanderer: CEO of the meditative 40-something club. It’s easy to peg his twelfth release as another entry in a long line of folk-rock records heavy on false sincerity. As SPIN’s Jason Gubbles says in his review, however, the entirety of Beck’s career has more to do with the gold-plated allure of his California roots than his youthful antics during the ‘90s indicate otherwise. Stripped of its deadpan humor and underground blues chic, his musical foundation of dust-covered guitars and a slacker’s sensibility has more in common with Don Henley than Tom DeLonge. His first album since nearing middle age is absent his patent playfulness, but he has no use for it. Naked country-rock arrangements alone ease his universal concerns: Am I OK? Am I happy? To bolster such material which could easily sour, desert-dry strings uplift his somber baritone, and light-footed lap steel adds to his reinvigorated sense of musical purpose. There may not be much joy in his step, but this noteworthy rebound is far from joyless. GRADE: A-
Key Tracks: Blackbird Chain” / “Waking Light” / “Morning

Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans (ATO)

drive-by truckers - english oceansThe comeback album of the year is spurred in large part by Mike Cooley’s tremendous growth as a songwriter. Once perpetual sideman to Patterson Hood’s dioramas of Southern woe, Cooley’s work gets top billing: including the fantastic “Shit Shots Count,” an opening barrage of satire and Bible Belt guitars punctuated by a brass section befitting of the Muscle Shoals house band. The remainder of Cooley’s contributions deals with empty fatherhood in the wake of a daughter’s marriage, Lee Atwater’s crooked politics, phony masculinity and pornography-initiated romance – each song as clever and dead-on as the last. But where Cooley relies on blunt lyrics and politically incorrect humor, Hood’s gentler prose lends itself to the kind of neo-gothic romanticism the South deserves. Topics include an independent woman who suffers a housewife’s purgatory, a treatise against teabagging right wingers and ambitious youth rendered apathetic by shithole towns. The antithesis of Cooley’s bratty drawl, however, comes on the poetic finale which name checks the Grand Canyon. “If the recently departed make the sunsets to say farewell to the ones they leave behind / There were Technicolor hues to see our sadness through as the sun over Athens said goodbye.” Faulkner could never match such beautiful brevity. GRADE: A

Key Tracks: Shit Shots Count” / “Primer Coat” / “Part of Him