Fans of Beck have come to expect some drastic shifts in style with each new release, and while ‘Guero’ is at times a return to the block-rocking form of ‘Odeley’ (since ‘Guero’ pairs him up once again with ‘Odelay’ producers The Dust Brothers), it also successfully cherry-picks elements from many of his other artistic phases to produce a dynamic album with much more depth than he was able to achieve with just two turntables and a microphone.
The album comes out swinging with the single “E-Pro” and its aggressive sing-along chorus that could be the successor to Blur’s “Song #2” as a pro-sporting event anthem. The head-bobbing pace is maintained with the straight-up Latin hip-hop pastiche “Que Onda” which is followed by “Girl”, Beck’s finger-snapping pop-answer to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”.
After that initial burst of energy, there is a suite of tracks that seem to nod towards specific era’s in Beck’s back catalog. The tropicalia of “Missing” and the somber “Broken Drum” both invoke the spirit of his ‘Mutations’ album, while the sensual robotic R&B of “Hell Yes” immediately aligns it with his ‘Midnight Vultures’ period.
Other interesting experiments on ‘Guero’ include “Scarecrow” with its spooky Americana imagery set atop the pulse of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, and the raw foot-stomping spiritual tone of “Farewell Ride” that recalls his reverence for the roots music of Harry Smith as displayed on 1994’s ‘One Foot In The Grave’ album.
While nothing on ‘Guero’ truly dips back into his pre-‘Loser’ days of lo-fi folk and chaos-comedy noise, the album does remind the listener just how much artistic territory Mr. Hansen has covered in recent years, and besides that, its simply fantastic to hear Beck emotionally recovered from the heartbreak of 2002’s ‘Sea Change’ and just having some fun again. ‘Guero’ is the story of how Beck got his groove back.
review by Sean Byrne
Release Date: 3/29/2005
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