July 19, 2013

Beck's Midnight Vultures and I'm a Curmudgeon

I'm tired of fighting
I'm tired of fighting
Fighting for a lost cause

—Beck, Lost Cause (Sea Change, 2002)

I used to love Beck and I would love him after Midnight Vultures.

But I did not love Midnight Vultures.

Who am I to not love something? Well, no one. Or someone. I don’t know.  I’m not trying to convince you to hate it. By all means, love it.  So read on, or don’t. Maybe you want to get your Midnight Vultures CD ready. If you still have CDs. Which you don’t. But I do.

Or just go here: Midnight Vultures by Beck Hansen....

The Story
I purchased Midnight Vultures the day it came out in 1999 from an HMV at St Vital mall in Winnipeg. I got in my car, put the CD in the Discman, plugged the tape convertor in, put the tape part of it in the tape deck, and then pressed play on the Discman. After the first song was over, I began to feel disappointment after disappointment. My Beck blues were alleviated in 2002 by the amazing Sea Change and then returned in 2005 with Guero. Bad bad, Guero.

The actual CD in question

Recently, half a dozen people have questioned my dislike for Midnight Vultures. Most people who have questioned me possess what I would call, “good taste” in music, so I sat down to give Midnight Vultures another shot; thinking, okay, I’ve been wrong before.

Just some other picture of the back of the CD

So listen I did, to Beck Hansen’s Midnight Vultures, thinking about my original 1999 reaction and my revised 2013 reaction and writing the following track by track reaction all within the time span it took to listen to the album. Hey, if Beck Hansen wasn’t going edit his work, why should I? So as not to upset people who actually review things, I shant call the following a review, merely a bunch of pith in real time on a blog...but this is important, people.

1.    Sexx Laws

1999: I remember liking this song when I heard Beck Hansen do it on a talk show, and remember liking the song when I put the CD in.  I like trumpets. And I like falsetto like when Ween does it. Like this...

Don't click on this if you clicked on the Beck album. Oh, now I've messed things up.

2013: Why was everyone saying that this was Beck’s “Prince” album? Prince never had a song that sounded like this, did he? Was Prince this intentionally cheesy? If anything, Sexx Laws is like a Tower of Power song or something. There’s a cool little country guitar and banjo at the end, which sounds cooler now that I have a better stereo than I did in 2013, which flirts with Cotton Eyed-Joe.

            Rating: 4 Beck Hansens

2.    Nicotine &Gravy

1999:  This song reminds me of Fun Lovin’ Criminals or that Crazy Town song Butterfly.  I like the big solo bellow at the end. Huaaaaaghhhh!

2013: Beck bought a rhyming dictionary for this song: “I think we're going crazy//Her left eye is lazy//She looks so Israeli//Nicotine and gravy.” and then half the song repeats this fun little pointless rhyme. I still like the big solo bellow at the end. Actually, the whole end is great—the part where he stops singing. This last two minutes would be a cool instrumental track to play if I ever open a vodka lounge and need mood.

Rating: 2.5 Beck Hansens

3.    Mixed Bizness

1999: Sounds like extra bits from Sexx Laws. Parts the producer didn’t like. His falsetto is getting pretty high. Careful, buddy.

2013: Sounds like Pink’s Get this Party Started at the beginning and a Mr. Bungle song at the end. Oh, this is the one where he sings  make all the lesbians scream.” You know what song about lesbians is fantastic: Weezer's Pink Triangle.

Rating: 2.5 Beck Hansens

 Pause the Beck...listen to this. Then resume the Beck.

4.    Get Real Paid

1999: Robot sound effects are terrible soundtrack to driving a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am. Oh, and that vocal effect thingy…..  We like to ride on executive planes// we like to sit around and get real paid.” Enough. I’m skipping to five. [note: don’t think I ever made it through this whole song in 1999].

2013: Remember Get in the Ring on Guns n’ Roses’s Use Your Illusion II where Axl sings a lot using some sort of terrible deep vocal effect? Now that I’ve heard the whole of Get Real Paid for the first time, it feels like a sythnpop version of Get in the Ring and this is not a compliment. Get Real Lost.

Rating: 1 Beck Hansen

5.    Hollywood Freaks

1999: Is Beck taking anything seriously on this album? Is he making fun of rap? I don’t get it. What are you gonna do with your life, Beck?! 

2013: I don’t hate Beck’s “rap” on this now, though it’s a bit of verbal diarrhea. Words, words, words….This sort of comes closest to Where it’s At from Odelay now that I think of it. Chorus is great, soulful back up singers are great.  I sort of wish Beck Hansen would stop talking over this great Beck song!

Rating: 3 Beck Hansens

6.    Peaches & Cream

1999:  Oh, the falsetto is back. “Peaches and Cream//You make a garbage man scream.” Why? What’s she doing? Is Peaches and Cream a she? Two shes? I’m confused. What the hell is this song about? Stop screwing around with the garbage man!

2013:  Oh, the falsetto is back. I might appreciate Get Real Paid and Hollywood Freaks more, longing for the days when Beck Hansen wasn’t screaming at me. Is this song about sex?

Rating: 1.5 Beck Hansens

Beck Break

7.    Broken Train

1999: Now where’s this Beck Hansen been for 6 songs? This is the Beck Hansen I graduated high school with. This is the Odelay Beck Hansen that we drank Old English on lake docks to three years ago. I wonder what I should major in in University.

2013: Easily the best song on this entire album. Call me a foagie, but part of my dislike for this album was always the sense that none of the songs sounded like Broken Train and all the songs sounded like Get Real Paid and I fear change. I also fear Sea Change because it makes me cry.

Let this one be the 45th song you play at my funeral. Okay yes….if I was making a Beck: Gold album, this would be only track that would make CD1 or CD2 from Midnight Vultures. “You won't find a shelter here//Tell me, what's your zip code baby//Did you ever let a cowboy//Sit on your lap?” is so good, I can’t believe two songs ago the same writer penned “People look so snooty//Take pills make them moody//Automatic booty//Zero to tutee fruity.”  (Then again, maybe if you’ve gotten this far, you might be thinking the same thing about what I’m writing here in comparison to this.)

Rating:  5 Beck Hansens
He wanted us to read these lyrics, so they're fair game.

8.    Milk & Honey

1999: Hey some Rock n’ Roll guitars. Then some funk. Then some words, words, words. Then some lasers. Then some piano. I’m gonna listen to Jamiroquai after this album is over.

2013: What the hell is this awesome song doing so late on this album?! This could be a Queen song. Best chorus on the album. Great ending. I love when Beck slows it down. Mutations and Sea Change are poking their heads in here.  But why can’t Beck just have some fun, Dave? No. My Beck doesn’t get to have fun. My Beck needs to be miserable and maudlin and dumped and religious like he's gonna be on Sea Change.

Rating:  4 Beck Hansens

9.    Beautiful Way

1999: Good song. But I’ll probably never hear it again given that it’s so late on the album, and two years ago Live released Secret Samahdi and that album is art, man. ART! Rolling down the windows, blasting Lakini’s Juice…I’m gonna be young forever.

2013:  Nice little Beach Boys vibe going here. I think Beck ended up doing another twenty songs like this, some of which ended up on soundtracks for Ewan McGregor comedies.

Rating:  4 Beck Hansens

10. Pressure Zone

1999: Beck sounds like Elastica on this one.

2013: Beck totally sounds like Elastica on this one.

Rating:  3 Beck Hansens 

Billy Joel's Pressure Drop, which also sounds like Elastica. 

11. Debra

1999: Cool music, but he just couldn’t resist another falsetto could he? I bet there’s a gal named Debra whose gonna love this song, sort of like how the teenage version of my mom probably loved The Rolling Stone’s Angie and my mid 40s dad loved Eminem and Dido’s Stan, and how I love Kids in the Hall Daves I Know.

2013: From the comments on Youtube for this song, people seem to love it. I suppose of all the falsetto songs on this album, this is probably the goodest. A nice note to end on, and I’m guessing that this is probably Beck’s second most karaoke’d song after Loser. Still, a gutless love song.

Rating:  3 Beck Hansens 

12.    Hidden Track

1999: Well, that’s the end of the album.

2013: Did anyone know about the pointless hidden track that you’d never sit through ten minutes of silence to get to?