Beck: Modern Guilt
By John Maltempo
With soothing melodies and rhythmic lyrics connected flawlessly by a mix of folk, rock, samples, drum tracks, and the consistent addition of the abnormal, Beck does not disappoint with his newest album “Modern Guilt.”
For more than a decade Beck has offered up a different kind of music, fusing genres, creating something new and fresh with every album released.
The new album has a mood that varies from somber and serious, such as in the first song, “Orphans,” to upbeat and a bit more light hearted with the second song “Gamma Ray.”
“Orphans” begins the album with a slow and steady bass drum soon followed by a mix of bass and an underlying synth.
The lyrics reflect the title appropriately with lines like “And these children leave their rulers behind.” He sings about a lonely journey through life until he “sees [his] maker a coming” and ends with a chorus of woe. “Gamma Ray” quickly follows with a pop guitar riff reminiscent of the 1960s.
The flow of the song feels much lighter than that of “Orphans,” but is brought back down with the third song, “Chemtrails.” The song begins with a gloomy but soothing synth-organ and bass.
The vocals are passed through a reverb filter to add a feeling of removal from the music. To offset the initial mood the drums come in and bring an out of place roughness to the song. The drums soon die out, returning it to its original placid sound, but ending with a cluster of overdriven guitar and drums.
Following “Chemtrails” is the title track, “Modern Guilt.” “Modern Guilt” has a perpetual static in the background of the song, adding a vintage feel.
It begins with drums and bass, bringing in a synth-piano throughout the lyrics and a guitar during the chorus. The lyrics are about the guilt that is “all in our hands” even though we “don’t know what [we’ve] done but [we] feel ashamed.”
The following song, “Youthless,” brings a much different feel to the table. It has a slightly hip-hop beat flowing from the guitar/bass, with an occasional synth and a very minimalistic drumbeat in the background. “Walls” is the sixth song on the album, adding a violin into the mix.
Again it brings a sad tone into play; a violin slowly and sadly sweeping in the background with a back track of high octave opera-esq singing.
“Walls” ends abruptly making the dub beat of the next song, “Replica,” even more unexpected. “Replica” takes a drum track, extremely fuzzed and places it with a very clear synth-piano.
Because of “Beck’s” layered vocals the song has a very three-dimensional feel to it. The eighth song, “Soul of a Man,” has an extremely alternative rock feel to it with a slightly folkish soul in the middle.
A heavily overdriven bass starts the song leading to a melodic, but short, chorus and another heavy break down. For a brief moment the song opens into a folk like feel with clean guitar and a bit of slide.
After “Soul of a Man” comes “Profanity Prayers.” Opening with what is possibly “Mykonos Movements” and keeping them throughout the song it goes into an extremely jaunty overdriven-guitar and drumbeat. The song clears up towards the end with a clean guitar and soothing reverb that leads into an ending solo.
The final song on the album, “Volcano” is particularly cheerless. The lyrics suggest that there was no knowledge of any past, and only one place to end, the volcano, leading to the Earth’s womb. The song ends abruptly once again, as if a life was extinguished in the blazing lava of a volcano.