Who’s kidding who?

With his new album, ‘Guero,’ Beck starts up where he left off

by Keri Carlson

Beck is praised for being a postmodern joker.

He skips from cut-out bins to house parties and rocks the lost post baby boomer generations with just “two turntables and a microphone.” As he steals from dusty blues, tropicalia and hip-hop, he turns the vintage sounds into swanky kitsch – like a tiki bar in Uptown.

Similar to the cut-and-paste style of Beck’s music, his lyrics sound just as random and fabulously pointless.

Though critics love to stamp Beck as completely ironic, his songs work so well because of strong poetic elements. The lines Beck strings together might not make sense visually, but they do rhythmically.

On the song “Sexx Laws” from the “Midnite Vultures” album, Beck sings, “Neptune’s lips taste like fermented wine/ Perfumed blokes on the Ginza line/ Running buck wild like a concubine/ Who’s mother never held her hand.”

The best aspect of Beck’s writing is the wild and goofy images inside a tight groove.

While Beck is famous for never repeating himself (or at least, was until this new record), he took a drastic turn on 2002’s “Sea Change.” On this album, Beck curled into a ball and cried. He no longer pranced around meaning in his songs; he flat-out told you he was very, very depressed.

The new album, “Guero,” is celebrated as Beck’s triumphant return to the party. He has picked himself up, wiped away his tears and returned to the success of his smash album “Odelay.”

In fact, the dingy guitar riff on the first track off “Guero” sounds almost identical to the one on “Devil’s Haircut.”

Beck also reunited with some old friends. The Dust Brothers, who produced “Odelay,” return, giving “Guero” similar laidback hip-hop beats covered with odd samples and Beck’s Southwestern-tinged guitar.

But “Guero” is not entirely a return to form for Beck, mostly because of the songwriting. After “Sea Change,” Beck has stuck with more concrete lyricism. The words are still Beck-flavored, but each song tends to focus on one theme.

One of the few tracks that find Beck more like his old self is “Hell Yes.” He raps, “Retract, collapsin’ the laugh tracks/ Noise response, applause and hand claps.” Unfortunately, “Hell Yes” is the weakest song on the album. Beck’s rapping has not been a problem on past albums, but here, it sounds awkward and forced.

Besides “Hell Yes,” the songs on “Guero” are solid. If you like “Odelay,” musically, there’s nothing to complain about.

And maybe because nobody ever knew what the hell Beck was talking about anyway, the missing pieces on “Guero” won’t lose him any fans.