100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #36

Beck – Mellow Gold

Almost all of ‘Mellow Gold’ sounds like it was made purely for fun. Even so it still sounds like Beck is trying to dabble in as many new and weird things as possible, regardless of budget. Before he got within 100 yards of a record deal, Beck had gained a reputation on the circuit as a weirdo who would do guerrilla acoustic sets while other bands were setting up. He’d play songs like ‘Cut In Half Blues’, a song about having a girlfriend with an unfortunate fondness for dismemberment. Tip of the iceberg. ‘Mellow Gold’s lyrics can range from gloating to humorous to surreal to just-plain-disgusting. Where else would you find imagery like this: “Asthma casualty with a repossessed car… Belly-floppin’ naked in a pool of yellow sweat”. Yeugh. Musically it’s obscenely diverse. Everyone knows ‘Loser’, the ultimate hip-hop-folk slacker anthem. ‘Pay No Mind’ and ‘Nitemare Hippy Girl’ are gleefully pissed-off campfire singalongs, as is ‘Truckdrivin’ Neighbours Downstairs’, a minefield of greasy gross-out ideas set against a simple plucked riff. Then there’s the hip-hop moments like the brilliant nauseous sunny day stumble ‘Beercan’ which samples the Care Bears album. He even dives into weird industrial moments, noize-outs and kazoo-ridden ragas, but my personal favourite is ‘Blackhole’ which sounds like the album’s only genuinely serious moment. ‘Blackhole’ is a slow acoustic-psychedelic drift with a beautiful feeling of elegy about it. No matter where you look though, ‘Mellow Gold’ is exploding with ideas and though you sometimes have to learn to love them, it won’t take long. Say what you like about it, it’s never boring; you can’t not have an opinion on it. It demands your attention. File between Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys and the Butthole Surfers.
Listen to: Beercan

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