100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #8

Beck – Odelay

“When I wrote ‘Devil’s Haircut’ I was feeling really… what’s that song about?” says Beck in his Futurama head-in-a-jar role. Frankly most of the songs on ‘Odelay’ could be summed up with that same sentence. The lyrics are so mangled you could use “WTF?” instead of full-stops. This is all fine though because Beck doesn’t know what he’s talking about either. He sounds like he barely even knows what he’s doing; he practically excretes music. Slacker rock, quirky pop, angry (for god-knows-what reason) hip-hop, squealing funk and road-trip country: ‘Odelay’ is all and none of these things. It ought to be a mess, but the slender threads that hold it intact are more than strong enough to make it weird in only good ways. After ‘Mellow Gold’ came out, recorded on cheap-o tape recorders,  Beck colluded with The Dust Brothers, producers of the beloved Beastie Boys, to make a follow-up which single-handedly blew out any suspicions that he may have been a one-hit-wonder. ‘Odelay’ dragged anything weird – Sonic Youth-esque noise collage, samples of Schubert and sex-education videos – kicking and screaming into the public eye, but this isn’t weird for the sake of weird. Everything in ‘Odelay’ serves a purpose. Whether that purpose is humour or suspiciously effective melodic devices, if a detail wasn’t there, you know you’d miss it. ‘Devil’s Haircut’ is buzz-saw grinds and harmonica wails over a riff that’s so easily ingrained in your head I tend to sing phone numbers to its tune. ‘Novocaine’ is lazy country which quickly morphs into a bleeping electro-hip-hop din, then makes a noise that comes out of a novelty Christmas decoration. ‘Jack-Ass’ is an anti-folk slacker anthem which steals its riff from Bob Dylan. Amongst all the wackiness though, ‘Odelay’ sets aside a moment dedicated to warmth and zombified tenderness: ‘Ramshackle’ closes the album (excluding bonus tracks) and has the air of a sleepy ride in the back of a cab after a intoxicated, off-the-wall wedding party. In a way I don’t know why I’m writing this. Any music lover worth their salt (or pepper – boom boom) should own this already. If you genuinely feel you are worth your salt (or pepper – that joke doesn’t get old) as a music fan and you don’t own ‘Odelay’, you’re wrong, and that’s your fault.
Listen to: The New Pollution


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by dave is the king of everything on October 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    such a fucking good album


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