Home / Confessions of a Fanboy 013: F*** DaVinci and Viva La Beck! … or When a Song Ruins Your Life, Pt. 2

Confessions of a Fanboy 013: F*** DaVinci and Viva La Beck! … or When a Song Ruins Your Life, Pt. 2

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I have cracked the code! JUMANJI!

My mind has been replaying a snippet of a song for a couple of weeks now and I could not place it. It has been like a broken record in my head and it has been driving me mad. Over and over, I would hear a melancholy voice sing, "Something better than this…"

I tried searching it in Google and Yahoo, but with so little to go on I came up with 10,000,000 results. I combed through a few of those hits and I found it: "Side of the Road" by Beck from Sea Change.

I feel a sense of release, of relief. I am going to listen to this song for an hour or two now.

Now that I have brought it up, I know at least one of my Mondo Brethren is a Beck devotee. Sea Change is probably my second favorite Beck album. They tend to shuffle back and forth with me. On any given day, my order would look something like this:

  1. Guero
  2. Sea Change
  3. Odelay
  4. Mutations
  5. Mellow Gold

Guero and Sea Change rarely move from their slots. Guero is Beck at the absolute top of his game. He combines the emotional depth of Sea Change with the sonic backdrop of Odelay. The songs are catchy, quirky, and brilliant.

Sea Change is the album that changed my view of Beck. Before it, I had a couple of his CDs and liked them well enough but was not a huge fan. Sea Change is the album where he became an artist. It is tremendous. The lyrics, the vocals, and the arrangements are all first rate. This album breaks my blackened little heart when I listen to it. Rarely has the wasteland of a failed relationship sounded this compelling over the course of an entire album.

The lyrics and the vocals surprised me most. Having listened to Odelay, I was aware of his abilities to create fascinating soundscapes. His lyrics usually came across as gibberish presented in a hiphop slacker style. Sea Change changed that. His vocals have probably never been this expressive and his words this poetic. Sea Change is a rich album worthy of repeated listens. Among my favorite moments on the disc are the final moments of "Paper Tiger" (actually, I love the entire song, but these lines minister to me):

There's one road to the morning
There's one road to the truth
There's one road back to civilization
But there's no road back to you.

You have to hear the mournful sound of his voice and the alluring string/guitar bed underneath it to experience the full potency, but even in print those lines communicate the emotions powerfully.

That passage, and there are several more like it, is a far cry from "I gotta couple of couches/sleep on the love seat." Don't get me wrong. I like "Loser" and I like the looser side of Beck's musical persona. He became a major musical figure with Mellow Gold and Odelay. If he never made Sea Change, he would still be a genius because of how great that material is. He could have continued making records in that vein and disappointed no one, but Sea Change revealed a depth I did not know he had. He can make you get up and dance with two turntables and a microphone, but he can also move you with an acoustic guitar and sumptuous strings.

Billions of breakup songs have been written, and most of them are bad. Pain can make for great art but it can also give you "How You Remind Me" by Nickelback. How many folders do you think those atrocious lyrics were scrawled on in junior high schools across the country? That was my first thought the first time I heard that unspeakably bad song. Chad "Grizzly Adams" Kroeger bared his sole and it was stupid.

Beck manages to write not only a great breakup song, but a great breakup album. I know what you're thinking. Could it possibly be as good as Nick Lachey's "What's Left of Me"? If you asked that question and you meant it, stop reading this review now. Better yet, throw away your MP3 player, your CDs, and tear out your car stereo. Stop listening to music. Stop buying music. Never reproduce.

Right-thinking people of the cosmos would already own Sea Change and know that it compares favorably with arguably the best breakup album of all time, Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Unfortunately, Sea Change has sold under one million copies, so there are not enough right-thinking people in the cosmos. What is wrong with you people? Every single one of you has had your ass dumped at some point. You need music to nourish your wounded soul! Without it, you write bad poetry and that bad poetry sometimes becomes bad music like Nick Lachey and Nickelback. That's right. I contend if someone would have sent Nick a copy of Sea Change when Jessica Simpson tossed his ass to the curb (or vice versa, because who really gives a fuck?), we might have been spared one more bad album polluting the "L" section of your favorite music store.

Something better than this? Not likely. 

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About Josh Hathaway

  • I caught it, Sir Sahm. Good song, that.

    I think that would be a very interesting piece… the seven stages of grief represented by the following albums, songs, etc. Hmmm…

  • I feel the concept for your next article brewing, Berlin. Run with it, man.

    It’s funny to classify Beck as one of those albums though… since almost all of his albums have this random and multi-genre encompassing element to them, and an upbeat theme at that.

    But Sea Change fits the bill… which only expands upon the Beck canon. Too bad it came about three years too late for me to be used in times of romantic misery.

    Of course, if Beck writes an album about being miserable in a dead-end corporate job, I might just get reborn. :o)

    DJR, did you get the S-S-Jerk joke? I hope so.

  • Mark — you bring up a great idea in compiling albums that perfectly coincide with the five stages of grieving (or whatever it is)!

  • There is now a legion of Lachey fans who think you’re a soul sucking jerk, Deejz. :o)

    Of course, I would recommend Sea Change as a breakup appetizer in the denial stage, followed up by Nine Inch Nails’ Broken (where you destroy all physical remnants of the relationship), and then Alice In Chains’ Dirt (where you try to forget it all via artificial substances).

    Remember kids, do not to go in the water for 15 minutes after consuming this mix. Hmmm, on second thought, you better make it a week.

  • Great points, EB. You and I see eye-to-eye on a number of Beck-related issues.

    The two songs from The Information you mention are my favorites but I, too, have yet to be hooked by the album overall. It is in no way bad, it just doesn’t have the draw for me so many of Beck’s other songs and albums do.

    I didn’t touch on Mutations, but that is another fun record to spin. “Bottle of Blues” makes me happy.

  • Great stuff as always DJR!

    Sea Change is a strange one for me — I’m just about the biggest Beck fan I know, and I respect the hell out of Sea Change, but I have to be in just the right mood to take it on. Probably because it’s so lush and melancholy and, well, down. Mutations, probably a very very good but not great album in the Beck canon, is a lot easier to throw on of an everyman’s workaday.

    I go through phases with the Beck, but the earlyish folk-grunge-art rock meets electric fuzz stuff is, to me, just beyond genius’ rainbow. One Foot In The Grave keeps on growing on me, year after year. Mellow Gold and parts of Stereopathetic are also kickass to the nines as well. Guero, I think, is Beck’s best post-Mellow Gold album, though Odelay is pretty great.

    The Information has its moments but overall I’m not enthralled by it. It doesn’t call me back again and again like so many other of his works. “Think I’m Falling In Love” is a huge exception though, great great fantastic and addictive song. And “Cell Phone’s Dead” is pretty damned fun as well.