Hebrew School

Modern Guilt

Beck, Modern Guilt (2008)

I suppose Beck might not have been under any unnecessary influence while recording his new LP, released earlier this month, considering his religious background and all, but I started to get the impression that, all things considered, nothing had helped either way.

But then I let the grass grow over it after listening to it two and a half times (well, it’s only 33 minutes long, and I happened to have it on repeat) on Thursday after my usual time with Clay Pigeon, and then listened again today.

So my suspicions on the obvious trappings of “psych”– the mellotron, the backward guitar solo, the asbsconding of Lewis Carroll’s diction, the bells, the Terry Riley-eque tweaking of the Rainbow synthesizer, the nod to “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the Fender Rhodes on delay– became outweighed by the power of the songs.

“Orphans,” the opening track, represents Beck’s penchant for modest self-examination here, with no small amount of credit due to Cat Power. “Chemtrails” is blissed and undertempo, an earnest song with a lot of plagal cadences, which seems to question humanity (and forward guitars) much the way ’60s psych did, if sometimes with a painful moralism. (See, now maybe that’s L. Ron sneaking in? Chan, stay away!) Glitchier tracks like “Replica” point to where co-producer Danger Mouse keeps alive the tendency towards those intricacies, which I enjoy, but darned if his approach didn’t seem a little heavy-handed throughout. This implicates Beck as well.

“Gamma Ray” vs. Loie Fuller


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