Poor Beck. He ain't no genius, as evidenced by the fact that everything after the first three songs of his debut, Mellow Gold, trails off into some sleepy-fidget nightmare where you couldn't remember a hook if Tom Petty held a gun to your head. And no matter what The Single says, he isn't a loser either -- not with the autistic pop knack he shows with those first three songs: "Loser," "Pay No Mind (Snoozer)" and "Fuckin' with My Head (Mountain Dew Rock)." What he is is an enormously self-conscious (he has reportedly refused to sing the chorus to "Loser" for over a year) pop-trash grab-bag saddled with the dubious fortune of more or less instant fame (awww...) from a long-overplayed tune that may, if he's unlucky, descend into one-shot novelty hell, hand in hand with The Cadets' "Stranded in the Jungle" and Little Jimmy Dickens' "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose." I've already heard through the grapevine that the present show almost didn't come off because one shortsighted booker decided, after the L.A. neo-folkie's SRO gig at Goat's Head Soup earlier this year, that "Beck is over."
Well, the music biz makes its own decisions based on its own logic, but I'm betting the other way on this one. Any kid who can write a song that carries slide guitar, however rudimentary, onto mainstream airwaves deserves some respect -- never mind that he carried it on the back of perhaps the catchiest pop tune of the young decade. Add to that achievement the slackingly anthemic "Pay No Mind" and the skrewed-up blooze of "Fuckin' with My Head," and you've got a new talent that may or may not maintain a home in the industry past record number two, but more important doesn't seem to give a good goddamn.
Call it folk, if the idea of a folkie with a sense of humor doesn't send you reeling, or call it hip-hop if you're really, really white and don't know any better. But don't make the mistake of missing the show, because as that hit fades, someone in L.A. is going to decide that Beck is "over" and take him out of mass circulation, even though in all likelihood he's just now getting started.
-- Brad Tyer
Beck performs at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at Toad's on the Deck. Karp and Truman's Water open. Tickets cost $8, all ages. Call 629-3700 for more info.
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* Alejandro Escovedo at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, Friday, June 17
* Chainsaw Kittens, Weezer and Seed at Goat's Head Soup, Friday, June 17
* Buffalo Tom at the International Ballroom, Sunday, June 19
* Reggae Sunsplash at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Sunday, June 19
* Counting Crows, Buffalo Tom and Sam Phillips at the Music Hall, Sunday, June 19
* Traffic at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Tuesday, June 21