Nobody’s fault but his own: The best of Beck

I resisted the temptation to list every song from Mellow Gold but “Sweet Sunshine,” a major label debut briefly eclipsed in the late nineties after the Odelay-Mutations-Midnite Vultures trifecta. Then, after going through most of the decade following the advice of my #4 track, I popped it in on Tuesday. Wow! So fresh! An ear for good lyrics too, on which front “Beercan” would be a winner (“I quit my job blowin’ leaves”; “chokin’ like a one-man dust bowl”).

Before forgetting that sincerity is a pose, Beck Hansen made readymades, pasted from the detritus of suburban pop culture. He sang like an elf who can’t understand why human beings exist. When he tried approximating human things like love and loss and sweetened them with melody, he sounded lost and wan — a garden variety sap. Hence the shame with which so many of us greeted his Grammy win in 2015. If Odelay or even Guero had beaten a Beyonce album in the years of their release, I’d have been infuriated; after all, Beyonce’s last two albums comprise several months worth of instrumental and sampled bits stitched together into readymades too.

So, no, I stopped caring about Beck after Midnite Vultures wrested the tight reins he kept on his tendency for bathos. But as a producer he has been useful, lending an ear for noises and hooks to friends in need like Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus; and his contributions to Marianne Faithfull’s 2002 Kissin’ Time teased out the diva’s perverse side.

1. Beercan
2. Where It’s At
3. Loser
4. Pay No Mind (Snoozer)
5. Readymade
6. Asshole
7. Nitemare Hippy Girl
8. Sexx Laws
9. Devil’s Haircut
10. MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack
11. Novocane
12. Diamond Dogs
13. Fukin with My Head (Mountain Dew Rock)
14. Lost Cause
15. Milk & Honey
16. Lazy Flies
17. Beautiful Way
18. Scarecrow
19. Hollywood Freaks
20. Girl
21. Deadweight
22. Black Tambourine

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