How crushing is Beck’s Sea Change?
As one of the most unpredictable artists this side of David Bowie – and perhaps even, the most unpredictable of our generation – Beck Hansen flipped the script with this record, which follows the spastic and sexual Midnite Vultures, and precedes the equally bizarro electrodusty record that was Guero.
So he made a name for himself on the heels of silly, outlandish material. In a way though, Sea Change would be akin to someone like Weird Al Yankovic releasing an album of mellow acoustic music.
With this record, Beck takes his foot off the wacky pedal and manages to reinvent himself in the process. Sea Change is so unbelievably lush and different than anything else he’s done, it doesn’t even sound like Beck. Were it not for his voice, you’d have a hard time figuring out who was behind these often soothing orchestral movements.
The shift is on from the opening chords of “The Golden Age,” which eventually incorporates the usage of a slide guitar. Never could have guessed when Beck was singing “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” that less than a decade later, he’d be singing delicate, mournful songs about a breakup that shook him to his core.
Sea Change is a painful listen at times – it is, after all, a breakup record at heart. Having mastered the art of shtick, Beck decided to focus his energy into reimagining what he could sound like. I’m thankful for that, because juxtaposed against the rest of his quirky, unique catalogue, this album is an aged beauty: soulful lyrics and harmonies, some haunting and gorgeous string arrangements (“Paper Tiger,” holy shit), hazy acoustic goodness with some psychedelic influence (“Sunday Sun”), and of course, the man is also a wordsmith. Some people have all the talent, dude.
This may just be my favorite Beck record, and not just because it’s so different from the rest. That helps, sure, but of any of his discography, this album feels like it has the most cohesion.
From Sea Change, this is “Paper Tiger” –
Standout tracks: “The Golden Age,” “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” and “Sunday Sun”
Weakest track: “All In Your Mind”
RIYL: The calm after the storm.