As if reasons for wishing Kanye West could be exiled to the moon were not already numerous enough, him crashing Beck’s 2015 Grammy Awards Album of the Year acceptance speech for Morning Phase – because, as the rapper and tedious sycophant later revealed, he thought Beyoncé should have won – was an especially irksome example. So irksome in fact I’m still going on about it. Kanye – he’s Beck. As in your actual Beck. What were you even thinking?
Fantastic as Morning Phase may be, probably nobody would argue that it’s Beck’s best album, and thus apt to achieve that which not Sea Change, nor Mutations, nor the 21-years-young and still mind-meltingly incredible Odelay managed to achieve before it, and win Album of the Year at the Grammys. But if such a prestigious gong can somehow be given out for cumulative greatness – much like Martin Scorsese getting that long overdue Best Director Oscar for plainly not his best movie in The Departed – then Morning Phase presented a good opportunity as any to let Beck have his moment.
Few musicians of the last three decades have consistently demonstrated the same clear-eyed vision nor thrilling flare as this fair-haired Californian. The same talent for stirring slices of folk, funk, soul, punk, hip hop, alt-rock, electronica, country, psychedelia and whatever else happens to be lying around his sonic pantry into the same big pot and making it taste sensational pretty much every time. The same capacity for earnest and unpredictable reinvention with practically every new record that he makes. He’s a maverick. He’s a dude. He’s also a Scientologist, but we’ll just skirt over that shall we?
Beck’s 13th album Colors is yet more evidence of his enduring dudeness. Again, it’s unlikely to have fans claiming it ranks among his very best work. But there’s loads to enjoy and admire nonetheless. Lead single Dreams – which was first released way back in 2015, and was made says Beck with none more humble a raison d’être than “something that would be good to play live” – proves a suitably joyous outrider for a record of maximum, primary colours poptimism, shot at the listener like a confetti cannon blast.
Up All Night distantly echoes the party-starting funk of the Midnite Vultures era
Co-written, produced and performed with Greg Kurstin – the man behind Adele’s Hello and other big chewy mainstream material by the likes of Sia, P!nk and Foo Fighters to name just a few – Colors feels like an album inspired by Beck’s popular revival since 2015, and on a mission to enjoy it. Freestyling, mildly tongue-in-cheek Dr Dre-pastiching hip-hop studio experiment Wow features Beck word-souping lines about “Lamborghini Shih Tzus” and “pissing in the wind cause it’s so pine fresh”. No Distraction sets some chords re-tooled from a Police song to a slapping beat, and laments shrinking attention spans and receding privacy in the smartphone age. Up All Night distantly echoes the party-starting funk of the Midnite Vultures era.
It’s by no means an unqualified success – I’m So Free might have been better given to P!nk or another of Kurstin’s shinier, shoutier collaborators. But as further basic proof goes that Beck remains on his game, and that Kanye West deserves to be in orbit, it’s hard to argue with.