When robots become self-aware and open night clubs, this is the type of music that will be played.
Odelay! is a classic. Prior to its 1996 release, Beck published two albums just one month apart in 1994: first, Stereophonic Soulmanure in February, and Mellow Gold the next month. Beck’s biggest-ever hit “Loser” comes from Mellow Gold, and helped to give unsuspecting audiences an idea of his dusty, hazy jams.
Odelay! makes a small diversion away from the “anti-folk/anti-commercial” Mellow Gold (which is ironic, because it went platinum thanks in large part to the success of “Loser” as a single) into a more radio-friendly, single-minded sound (see: “The New Pollution” and “Where It’s At”).
But where the album really succeeds is still Beck’s lo-fi influenced oddball tracks. Whereas “anti-folk” just meant some form of folk satire for Mellow Gold, Odelay! embraces the peer pressure of commercial viability in a way that only he could have.
It’s no wonder “New Pollution” and “Where It’s At” stand out on this album. They were meant to. Appease record label execs with some singles and then do whatever: a business model that worked at one point up until Napster and the digital age. I think it’s really freed up music and musicians to excel at what they do best, rather than have to appeal to what the Wu-Tang would call a “suit and tie” guy looking for tracks that are “cleaner than a bar of soap.”
Take, for instance, the closing sections of “Hotwax”, “Derelict” and “Lord Only Knows” – Hansen did what he wanted to. And he gave radio “The New Pollution” as a pennance to do so. It’s a genius move, but one I’m thankful isn’t really necessary anymore.
And for what it’s worth, this album at various points (including “High 5” and “Novacane”) literally sound like robot music. Just a bunch of box robots that realized their invincibility but decided to use it for the good of music lovers. Well done, robots. Thank you for your service.
For you, here’s “The New Pollution” from Odelay!:
Standout tracks: For me: “High 5 (Rock the Catskills)”, “Minus” and “Novacane” are all so underrated – but the singles from this record are reeeeal good too.
Weakest track: “Derelict” is the low point; both “Jack-Ass” and “Ramshackle” are pretty, but too mid-tempo for an album predicated on upbeat weirdness. Such a good indication of Sea Change, though.
RIYL: Beastie Boys? Experimental pop.