Beck's at it again, but this time he's given equal screen-time to the hot, young producer, (and one-half of the hip-hop/soul duo Gnarls Barkley,) Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse. But, unlike. . . say, Coldplay's new album, (which is a bit more subtle about the presence of producer Brian Eno,) Modern Guilt is a perfect 50/50 share of each of it's artists. And that's what makes this a very unique Beck album - it feels more like a collaboration.
The total running time of the 10-song album is under 34-minutes, so it is a quick and tight little collection of post-modern/throwback/ultra-real/psychedelic weirdness. Danger Mouse brought out the high-end percussion sounds, some crazy synthesized beeps, bloops and buzzes, and even invokes some seriously 60s psychedelic stuff! One of Rolling Stone Magazine's Senior Editors, Melissa Maerz, points out how reminiscent it is of early Pink Floyd, or The Zombies... and I can see that in a few tracks.
There really aren't any radio-friendly "hits" on this album, but that's not a bad thing - it's actually a result of some serious musical art going on here! At times, it can be very hypnotic and rhythmic in an almost primitive kind of way. And unlike most of Beck's lyrics, you can actually understand full phrases within these lyrics. (He only did this once before, in 2002's Sea Change.) Maerz, (again, over at Rolling Stone) says there's a lot of spirituality and ethereal musings in the lyrics on this album, and if Beck would ever annunciate! - even just a little! - maybe I could have heard some of that philosophical pondering he's said to have done here! But that's okay. That's part of Beck's artistic charm: the way he mutters through his lyrics and usually doesn't focus on them even meaning anything. So it's cool.
You could actually split this album into two parts: the first half has the more interesting and almost poppy sounding music, and the second half is far more weird and atmospherical - just good background tunes. In fact, if you were to just play this album from start to finish, what you'd notice is that the end would come suddenly and shock you into awareness that you had just been listening to music, but that you're not anymore. It certainly happened to me a couple of times already.
My favorite tracks are, "Youthless", "Modern Guilt" and "Gamma Ray" - these felt to me like they had the most personality, but I'm still getting to know the songs. But what's great about Modern Guilt is that it isn't just a collection of individual songs - it's actually best played as a whole album; a single unit of music.
In the end, all you want to know is: "Should I buy this album, or not?" Here's a simple test:
Do you like ALL of Beck's music? If "Yes", then you SHOULD buy Modern Guilt.
Do you like only SOME of Beck's music? If "Yes", then you should probably NOT buy the album, as it is not his usual feel-good party music.
Did you like Beck's 2002 album, Sea Change? If "Yes", then you should check it out - but if "No", then you'd hate Modern Guilt.
See ya next time, folks!