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Verse Chorus Verse: Beck – “Jack-ass”

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Critics and hipsters were cramming Beck down our throats with a vigor that would only be topped when they got their copy of Radiohead's OK Computer.  I remember thinking, "Beck?  Really?"  Isn't this the same dope who has a song about couches, love seats, and choking cockroaches?  I wanted to take him up on his offer to kill him the first time I heard "Loser."

Even in the mid-'90s, I was a total fanboy.  The magazines wouldn't shut up about him.  "Where It's At" started to grow on me.  I worked in a music store in a mall.  Resistance was futile.  I surrendered and bought my copy of Odelay.  I should take a lap for resisting in the first place.

It wasn't love at first listen.  I had to work at it awhile.  Whether I really understood the music I was listening to at the time or not, I thought I did.  When I listened to Odelay, I had no idea what the hell was going on.  I was outside my comfort zone.  It took time for the unconventional sounds and absurdist lyrics to resemble music to me.  When it clicked, it stayed.  In the time of chimpanzees, Beck was a monkey.  At the height of serious, depressing, lo-fi grunge, Beck made hi-fi chaos with a good-time slacker bent. 

"Jack-Ass" has long been a favorite of mine from that record.  It's Beck at his most delightfully cornball.  It took me awhile to decide if I was going to get on the Beck bandwagon.  My favorite line has always been the bit about "when I wake up, someone will sweep up my lazy bones."  It's now part of the lingo at home.  TheWifeToWhomI'mMarried laughs when I warble that line.  I like it when she laughs.  There's something goofy and sweet about it until you actually hear the hee-hawing of a donkey.  I'm not sure, but I think that might be disturbing.

"Jack-Ass" would have been great in Joss Whedon's Firefly series with the occasional nonsense lyric, Western flavor, and futuristic sounds.  I go months without listening to it, but when I do I never listen to it just once.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Aaron

    This has always stood out as a favorite of mine from the Odelay album.

    Comparatively, I was a little more open to “Beck-as-recognized-artist” at the time of this release, but it wasn’t until Jack-Ass and Lord Only Knows and Hotwax that I became a true fan.
    There’s just something about lyrics like “I’ve been drifting along in the same stale shoes / loose ends tying a noose in the back of my mind” that’s easily identifiable, even if at first it sounds like typical Beck absurdist rambling.

    Just like you said, I might not hear this song for months, but when it comes around, it’s always played loud and more than once.

  • Josh Hathaway

    Good thought on the opening lines, Aaron. It’s an oddball way of describing a state of mind most of us can identify.