Friday, May 27, 2011

305 Odelay. As close as the countdown gets to yodeling.

Album: Odelay
Artist: Beck
Year: 1996
Genre: Rock


  1. Devils Haircut
  2. Hotwax
  3. Lord Only Knows
  4. The New Pollution
  5. Derelict
  6. Novacane
  7. Jack-Ass
  8. Where It's At
  9. Minus
  10. Sissyneck
  11. Readymade
  12. High 5 (Rock the Catskills)
  13. Ramshackle

Two albums back I was fairly scathing about Avalon by Roxy Music. I launched into a bit of a pompous tirade about over-production and made a lot of frankly convoluted references to things being polished. The main thrust of my argument was that a lot of time and effort and mental energy went into producing Avalon which produced a tedious album. There’s no doubt that an equal amount of time went into producing Odelay and many hours were spent thinking about how all the sounds should go together. But unlike Avalon, Odelay is a fantastic listen.

You might think it’s hypocritical to think one slickly produced album is dull while another is entertaining but can I explain my position by referring you to the respective album covers. Avalon’s cover (scroll down two entries to remind yourself) features a helmeted figure (who is actually female) staring out at a sunset. You can imagine the discussion: “We’re making some serious art here we need to make sure the cover reflects the seriousness of the situation. Hire a photographer and a location scout! Design the most imposing helmet possible! But it’s still not weighty enough, we need more- someone find me... a falcon! This work of art demands a serious looking bird!” When the same topic of conversation was introduced in Beck’s studio someone said: “Hey look at this cool picture of a really shaggy dog!”

Odelay has a real sense of fun. It’s slickly produced by people with a sense of humour and a sense of the ridiculous. It’s made by people who were grinning foolishly at each other during the playback. Unlike Avalon, which is polished to a predictable sheen, Odelay leaps happily in directions you never expected. At around the 3 minute mark of Novacane the track dies down almost to the point of silence. The short pause is enough for the listener to wonder what’s about to come next and the range of options is practically limiteless. It could be a fluglehorn, a loud guitar, a cheesy fifties sample, an animal sound-effect of one of thousands of other things. If you saw all the twists and turns of Odelay coming then you’re freakishly psychic and should probably have a good hard look at yourself.

You can’t really describe Odelay except to say that Beck has a great voice, he writes a good tune and an intriguing lyric and the Dust Brothers treat the production desk as the quirkiest instrument in the studio. Give it a listen,

Highlight: Devil’s Haircut
Lowlight: Novacane

Influenced by: The limitless possibilities that sampling affords
Influenced: The further dismantling of musical genre boundaries.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This stuff tries way, way too hard to be "cool."

-I honestly think this record doesn’t try hard to be anything.

So do you need this album at your constant Beck and call or could you Odelay it aside forever? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really fun album. I wouldn't mind a listen. Anna