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Midnite Vultures
Artist:  Beck 
Label:  Geffen
Time:  11 Tracks/58:28 minutes

Sexx Laws 

The face of modern rock is not a haggard one.  It is bright, blue-eyed, and bears the name of Beck Hansen.  He is the quintessential genre smasher, which seems to be exactly what alt-rock is about nowadays.  From the Beastie Boys to Rage Against the Machine, the bands who are making a name for themselves and changing the face of modern rock are not inventing new genres, but rather combining existing ones.  Beck is perhaps the leader of them all.  No other artist has been able to mix rock, pop, country, folk, rap, metal, and now motown, into a musical medley that not only pleases, but also tickles the funny bone.  

Unlike Mutations, Beck's unexpected follow-up to his masterpiece Odelay, Midnite Vultures is  Beck at his best.  Where on Mutations, Beck turned in his turntables and broke out his folk guitar, he has brought them back out for Midnite Vultures.  The album is birthed out of a pop ego that is highly critical of the genre, as evident on "Hollywood Freaks," and finds definition in the long forgotton lore of the lurid Motown scene.  

The opening track, "Sexx Laws," is R & B complete with horns that even James Brown would be proud of, mixed with Beck's unique hip-hop beats.  The track is fluid, and is perhaps the best exemplification of what Beck is up to with this album when he breaks it down classic country style in the middle of the song, complete with banjo.  The album segues into the drum and bass lead of "Nicotene and Gravy," and then changes up once again into the most electronic Beck tune to date, "Get Real Paid," seemingly another critique of American pop-culture and lifestyle with the line "We like the boys with the bullet proof vests / We like the girls with the cellophane chests."  But just when you think pop will eat itself and Beck will blast into his trademark Mellow Gold rap styles, he lunges into the straightforward west-coast rap of "Hollywood Freaks," and from there turns to the swanky seventies rock feel of "Peaches and Creme" that would even leave Prince feeling that he missed the sex revolution.  "Milk and Honey" takes the seventies rock sound forward and has the listener wishing he was wearing roller skates and watching Xanadu.  Other notable tracks include the noisy-rock-fuzz-distortion of the electronic "Pressure Zone" and the album's closing, "Debra," a slow, mellow, sleeze-groove that proves Beck has more soul than any white man alive.  

The album may not be as high intensity or as well thought out as Odelay, but it is a bit closer to home and will remedy the alienation of those who were lost during the circulation of Mutations.  All in all, Midnite Vultures is Beck doing some of his finer work with a little more funk and finds him wearing skin-tight bell bottoms, platform shoes, a leather jacket with fringe, and a well-rounded afro, if he can grow one.

Todd Ballard 3/18/2000


 

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