In 1996 Belle & Sebastian’s album If You’re Feeling Sinister carved out a successful niche in the world of folk-rock and was the most acclaimed album of that year by a UK-based act. On the other side of the pond came an album that is very hard to pigeon-hole into a genre that alternative rock will just have to do. Widely acclaimed on its original release with a critical regard that has grown with age; let’s look at Odelay by Beck.
Since this is Beck’s only appearance in the Top 250 (Sea Change trailing behind at #443) I was going to save this album for a long while since he is one of only two male singers that I listen to on a regular basis. However, the weather has been gorgeous recently and I found myself in the mood for some Odelay, Guero and Mutations whilst at work and at home doing some of the cleaning.
It’s interesting to me how Odelay is held in such high esteem since, personally, it is a Beck album that took me a while to get into. Guero, Morning Phase and Sea Change were instant. I still don’t quite get Midnite Vultures. Odelay, Mutations, Modern Guilt and The Information all took a little while. Still, years after first trying it out I feel I am finally able to access what so many people have said about Odelay over the years since it is a great album with a very weird Hungarian dog on the front.
As an album it is the work of a genre-alchemist (equal props to both Beck and The Dust Brothers for that) where the samples of screams, robot voices and a weird segue into the appearance of a ‘rhythm wizard’ are just part and parcel of the album. It is also something that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Songs like ‘The New Pollution’, ‘Where It’s At’, ‘Devil’s Haircut’ and ‘Lord Only Knows’ are clearly great stand-out tracks but they don’t appear to be as good when listened in isolation if it wasn’t for mood-setters like ‘High 5 (Rock The Catskills)’ surrounding them and lending them support.
I think this might be the reason this took me the longest to really get into. I was able to pick out tracks from other albums of his such as ‘Rental Car’, ‘Cellphone’s Dead’, ‘Paper Tiger’ and ‘Sexx Laws’ which I could just stick on repeat. Here, it takes patience to appreciate Odelay fully. I just wonder what his supposed second album of 2014 is going to turn out like.