[CD Review] Beck

When Odelay dropped in 1996, it was, as comedian Steven Wright once quipped, so far ahead of its time nobody was there yet. With its seamless juxtapositon of wry folk and geeky soul, nods to Sonic Youth noise and Afrika Bambaataa electro (thanks to the Dust Brothers' wicked beat pastiches), Odelay was mash-up before the likes of the Go! Team and loads of English bands would do the same in the decade following.

Odelay-Deluxe Edition is a very different album, expanded to two discs by remixes and B-sides that make Beck's brand of slacker soul and kitschy funk just one side of a deeper artist busting with potential, a Badly Drawn Boy eager to work from a wider color palette. Hits such as "Devil's Haircut" and "New Pollution" hold up well, even if the songwriting-over-the-hip-hop undercarriage makes Beck here seem like a thinking man's Kid Rock.

The B-sides and extras show Beck working from the parts of his sum. There are the Kid606 IDM freakouts of "Gold Chains" and a lot of noisy beat/distorted vocal also-rans. But in the bluesy folk of B-sides such as "Feather in Your Cap" and "Brother," you can hear the Beck who would return to the studio, skipper's hat in hand six years later, inspired by a broken heart to make the murky, meaningful Sea Change.

Odelay's greatest compliment comes from Beck himself, who's tried hard to match its sense of fun and purpose ever since. He'd veer too far into stylized sleaze with Midnite Vultures and jock Jack White for the forced-sounding Guero before getting the balance right with 2006's The Information. On the latter disc, Beck achieved what he did best on Odelay: kickin' a beat, strummin' a tune, and not taking himself too seriously. If the heart ain't broke, don't sound like you're trying to fix it.


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