barrio slang term Guero, meaning something like whitey,
is a nod to how Beck makes music: by cribbing seemingly
incongruous musical styles and bits of pop culture to put
in his own bag. From his short-lived rap band Kill Whitey
and slacker shtick of "Loser" to a Prince parody
in Midnight Vultures and the James Taylor influenced
ballads on Sea Change; Beck has always been a self-proclaimed
garbage man. The artistry of Guero picks from a pile
somewhere between Los Angles and a comic book. As we all
know, picking garbage is hit or miss.
with The Dust Brothers and track selection like that of
a good mix tape draw parallels to Odelay, yet Beck
the consummate scavenger mostly avoids picking his
own dead bones.
gets asked where heís going on "Queí Onda Geuro."
This song is still fresh enough to eat! Some homeboys allude
to Yanni and James Joyce while a tricked out ride bounces
down the block, ever repeating its mariachi car horn and
machismo. This pile of trash has both the self-deprecating
humor and sly grooves that Beck fanatics have come to expect.
Pro," the first track, tries to get you revved
up with an anthem rock guitar riff and refrain "nah,
nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah," which comes off a little
like a taunt. Weak vocals and sluggishly developing measures
of polyrhythms fail to reach this reviewer. Fear not, for
what "E Pro" attempts, "Hell Yes" accomplishes.
"Fax machine anthem get your damn hands up," Beck
announces on the funkiest track of the album. "Iím
cleaning the floor. My beat is correct. HELL YES!"
He is quite right and pretty funny about it, both in composition
of phrase and sound.
like a Sea Change left over, "Broken Drum"
is a highlight of a different color. A wispy feedback loop
mixes seamlessly with a lax beat and a hanging electric
guitar interjection echoes the somber yet hopeful lyrics.
Celeste and piano harmonically mirror the words to great
"Go It Alone," Jack White provides a smooth bass
line, the Dust Brothersí beats break just right with an
ambient fuzz reminiscent of vinyl, and Beck approaches the
words with subtle soul and inflection. This song will give
you an earworm. The refrain "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah,
nah" rears itís head again, this time with hand-claps
to pleasing effect.
electronic chain gang blues of "Farewell Ride"
is the grittiest weíve heard from Beck since One Foot
in The Grave. Slide guitar creeps against the foot stomp/hammer
strike beats, a breathy harmonica pauses for the sparse
dissonance of finger piano and itís total bass rattler!
Itís almost too good for words, save for the ones Beck chose.
The multi-tracked lyrics are rich in timbre and imagery.
For this reviewer, this is the ultimate Beck song, combining
the rawness of his early career with vocal, instrumental
and electronic chops that he has also managed to pick from
Car" is mostly forgettable, except for a breakdown
that sounds like Swedish midgets on speed. There are some
other songs that donít warrant any more print space than
to say they are a bit like Popsicles. Maybe you will find
you like Beck, you will like Guero. Beck has once
again fended off this reviewerís fears that he may, in advancing
age, become shitty. The only thing that could break his
stride now is finding Jesus.