Ahh, Beck Hansen. Our society is remiss for the lack of more brilliant brains like his.
Mutations, the 6th studio album from Hansen, comes just two years after the release of his seminal record, Odelay! It’s a significant deviation in terms of tempo. One might say it’s a more melancholy, even somber record at times, but I love it. It’s decidedly Beck. Sometimes it’s good to be sad, and the man who has mastered weird doesn’t need your permission to be sad, internet!
Multiple tracks make use of the harpsichord, which is really neat to hear on downtempo tunes like “We Live Again” and “Dead Melodies.” Mutations also sports the saddest song this side of Sea Change in “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” – which, might I add, opens with a sitar. That Beck is able to utilize little-used, “world music” instruments and not in a gimmicky way speaks to the character of his music. He’s just a multi-talented musician. No two ways about it.
Converse to “Nobody’s Fault,” Mutations also features a song that could very well have been a b-side from Odelay! with “Tropicalia.” It’s a delightful, upbeat, and yes, tropical tune with horns and what sounds like spoons against a washboard. Super fun.
Mutations is a sign of things to come for Beck, and it’s hard to believe it’s already been out 15 years. Might is sound timeless because it’s Hansen? Hard to say. But the contribution of producer Nigel Godrich (best known for his work with another revolutionary band that you might have heard of: Radiohead) is littered all over this thing. It’s got that Radiohead “touch” with songs like “Static/Diamond Bollocks.” The track is split up into two sections with something of an intermission. You could call the latter portion a hidden track.
The bass work of Justin Meldal-Johnsen, known for his work recently with Nine Inch Nails, and the inclusion of that harpsichord, drives this gem. It’s got an industrial feel to it, a callback to the robotic breakdown of “Minus” on Odelay!
Lyrically, what can I say? It’s Beck. He’s both lonely and strange throughout. Read through songs like “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” or “Lazy Flies” and know real sadness. Then leaf through “O Maria” and feel even worse. Heh. Oh well. It’s good to have feelings, right guys? Who’s with me? Feelings!
In short: Mutations rules.
Standout tracks: “Tropicalia” and “Nobody’s Fault But My Own”
Weakest track: “Sing It Again” is passable.
RIYL: Alt-folk/alt-country. Singer songwriters. Cake.