Beck – Sea Change (2002)
“Whatever it is, I’m against it”
– Groucho Marx, in Horse Feathers (1932)
I don’t think I’m intentionally being a contrarian here but I’m not sure why this particular Beck album is so revered.
I believe Sea Change would qualify as a ‘slow-burn’ and it definitely improves with each listen. In fact, this evening’s play-through, while quietly doing dishes, may be close to the optimal listening setting.
The record also meets perhaps the most important Beck criterion: to modify a Forrest Gump line (speaking of almost universally revered things I’ve never fully embraced), new Beck albums are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
Did anyone predict this subdued singer-songwriter set as the follow-up to Midnite Vultures? Probably not, and that’s part of what makes Beck so great.
It was equidistant in time and sound from his partying-like-it’s-1999 singles like Sexx Laws and his 2005 return to grooves with Guero.
For me, this would likely be my #4 Beck album, behind Mutations, Guero, and Odelay.
So I’m still very much a fan of Sea Change, just being a bit of a fussypants.
I think my main struggle with this record (oh the hardships I’ve endured!) is that it’s the first Beck record I’ve encountered that doesn’t remind me exclusively of Beck.
I recognize it’s beyond unreasonable to expect him to continually reinvent his sound, while maintaining his distinctive style and continuing to not just explore but also create new musical territory.
To be fair, he did a fine job here on everything but the final item on the checklist.
It felt very strange to listen to a Beck song and say, oh that sounds like _______.
Fast-forward a decade however to his release of Song Reader, a book of sheet music in lieu of an album in 2012? That could only sound like Beck & it sounds brilliant to me.