Back in 1999 Beck Hansen released the funky Midnight Vultures. Songs like Sexx Laws and the fantastic “Debra” with its chorus of “I want you / only you…. / …and your sister / I think her name is Debra” were as much clever pastiche as anything. Beck’s one-liners, it seemed, were as good as his songs. Truly, like that other indie-folk-funk pioneer and hipster Bruce Forsyth, he was *shudder* an all round entertainer…
As the tour ended, Beck and his fiancée ended their nine year relationship, and the subsequent outpouring of songs became 2002’s “Sea Change”, a break up album worthy of the comparisons to Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks”.
I remember my surprise upon hearing lead single “Lost Cause” on the radio. It was a little short on laughs compared with Beck’s previous single – the up tempo “Nicotine and Gravy”. Indeed, “Lost Cause” by contrast was positively miserable. Picture Jack Dee’s face after sitting through eight back to back episodes of “Take Me Out” and you’ll understand just how miserable that song is. But it was quite brilliant.
I wasn’t the only person to think this, of course. Whilst Sea Change has been a nailed-on favourite of mine since its release (and was one of the first albums I bought when re-building my vinyl collection four years ago), it has only grown in reputation since its release.
The great news is that Beck’s new album – “Morning Phase” is something of a natural successor. The same musicians that played on “Sea Change” have been reassembled, albeit the melancholy on the first record is replaced by an uplifting reflectiveness echoed in the title of the album: this is a welcome to a new day rather than a record that ponders how one’s life has turned inside out…
Don’t worry. That’s not to say the jokes are back. It still bears the slight air of Morrissey after he has been caught speeding by a particularly unsympathetic policeman. In the rain. On his way to a funeral. For someone he didn’t particularly care for. After running over his cat.
The danger of a sequel is that it fails to live up to the original. Matrix Reloaded, Dumb and Dumberer, Oceans 12, Kelly Osborne… all examples of the follow up being sorely lacking compared to the original.
I therefore worried a little that “Morning Phase” might not be able to live up to the sheer quality of its predecessor, but half a dozen listens later such fears have been laid to rest. “Turn Away” sounds like it should have been recorded by Simon and Garfunkel (in a good way) whilst tracks like “Blue Moon” “Heart is a Drum” and album closer “Waking Light” are stunning and beautiful. It is great to see Beck return with such a strong album after five years out battling health problems (he had a bad back apparently) – I’ll be first in line for the tour. The video for Blue Moon is below. Great song, terrible video, unless you like looking at elephants doing nothing via a moving CCTV camera.