Beck: Modern Guilt

Beck has made a much-lauded career by camouflaging his ramshackle ways inside the scenery provided by his producers. Still, Modern Guilt, his tenth album, feels like as much a Danger Mouse album as a Beck release. Danger Mouse, the whiz behind Gnarls Barkley's maniacally celebrated 2006 smash "Crazy," is the perfect beatsmith/producer for Beck's increasingly cryptic and overwhelmed-by-society lyrics (it's been a long time since Mr. Hansen got "crazy with the Cheese Whiz"). It's Beck's least scattered album, meaning fewer non sequiturs, both lyrically and musically. "Orphans" opens the record with a staccato breakbeat that yields to some clean folksy guitar before coming back to give some street cred to a song that wanders through inner space. The next track, "Gamma Ray," with its great mod-boogie simplicity, flat out sounds like Gnarls Barkley. On "Chemtrails," Beck dons a mellow falsetto that puts him beautifully in the middle of Brian Wilson's range, singing what could be a Wilson tune were it not for the massive, rolling drums that Joey Waronker pounds underneath. There's a decidedly lo-fi vibe to Danger Mouse's handiwork, which brushes everything from dark trip-hop to dusty jungle to a tin-can two-step that's uniquely his. The album was recorded at Beck's house in Silverlake, so it exudes simple, literally homemade lo-fi goodness (think 2005's Guero) with, courtesy of Danger Mouse, some serious beats.

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Michael Coyle