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The Daily Tar Heel

Beck Resurfaces With Slow, Spiritual Tide


Sea Change

4 Stars

Beck is a weary artist.

Once the fresh-faced rap-rocker who fueled teenage angst with "Loser" and "Where It's At," Beck has become an aged pop-culture icon -- without selling out.

Never has that been clearer than on his newest LP, Sea Change. From the genre jumble of his nearly decade-old debut Mellow Gold to the smooth blend of Mutations, Beck has always refused categorization.

Odelay, his strongest musical foray, danced between instrumentation and experimentation with raw energy.

His albums have stitched together elements of rock, rap, electronica, folk and psychedelia in a trippy and often outrageous voyage. His work can only be defined by the fact that it defies definition.

Like a kid with too many new toys on Christmas, Beck would intensely love a particular style for a few moments before dropping it for a new obsession.

Bouncing between every conceivable genre has fostered many impressive -- if not short-lived -- tunes.

Apparently all that playing has made Beck tired.

Sea Change is Beck taking a break at the end of the road. Slow, saturated and soulful, Sea Change does not sound like Beck -- but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Gone are the catchy riffs and sing-along rap lines. Gone are the twisted electronic diversions and bouncing bass lines. Gone are the tricks and gimmicks.

What's left is Beck, a guitar and all the time in the world.

The songs of Sea Change bleed together in an hourlong purr. But instead of swimming through a musical soup searching for differentiation, the effect comes off like a story.

Because of the loose composition, no track sings above the rest but none drop out of the loop either.

The introspective, spiritual lyrics and lulling strum of the guitar pull you into a serene sea of images while pulling Beck out of the speakers and into your head.

As a result, the album feels personal and intriguing and begs the question of what Beck was going through when he wrote the songs.

"Altogether is a snake pit of souls/New days/To throw your chains away/To try to hang your hopes on the wind." The lyrics are mystic and ambiguous -- like Bowie or Radiohead -- conveying more message with their delivery than their meaning.

But when the LP is laid out, the lyrics really don't matter that much. Sea Change is about peace. Tracks are cool and comforting, leaving the listeners sedated and carefree.

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The effect is like watching the ocean in the middle of the night. The sounds of the waves crashing on the shore and over each other are subsidiary to the atmosphere that the they create.

Sea Change is not an album to blast in the car or flip back and forth across. It is designed to be listened to solidly from one end to the other -- consuming and washing over the listener.

That does not mean Beck has gotten lazy or old but proves that he can do more than write a great song -- he can compose a solid album.

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