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Beck, Midnite Vultures (DGC)

by Matthew Webber

The packaging of Midnite Vultures should clue you in as to what the album tries to be: colorful, silly, fun, a collage, ambitious, artsy, laughably sexy. What you can't guess from the CD's artwork, but what you figure out on the very first listen, is what Beck's new album actually is: all of the above plus funky, fantastic and amazing. It's an album so good only Beck Hansen could make it.

As he does with each new album, the multi-faceted Beck reinvents himself musically. In case Odelay and Mutations failed to convince you, Midnite Vultures proves the immensity of this man's talent. "Is there anything Beck can't do?" I wonder. The answer I give myself is "No." From album to album, from song to song, sometimes from word to word, Beck morphs. He's sexy, he's silly, he's serious, he's smarmy. He's a contradiction, an enigma, a walking non sequitur. He's arguably the most creative artist to emerge in the last decade.

Midnite Vultures is in some ways Beck's best album yet. It's the best in its production values and in its sheer silliness. It's by far his most fun album and one of the most fun albums I've ever heard. You'll either shake your head or laugh at his purposefully ridiculous lyrics. It's impossible to select a representative sample, but I'll attempt it anyway: "Hot milk/Mmmm... tweak my nipple/Champagne and ripple/Shamans go cripple." "Give these pious soldiers/Another lollipop/Cause we're on the good ship/Menage et trois." "I think we're going crazy/Her left eye is lazy/She looks so Israeli/Nicotine and gravy."

It would be even harder to describe the album's sound. The music contains innumerable blips and beeps and horn sections and banjos and background vocals and guitars and infinite other instruments and sounds (some that you can't even describe) that you wonder how it blends into one sound so perfectly. You'll hear a split-second of a beat and think, "What?" and then you won't hear the sound again. You'll hear a string of sounds and think they can't possibly be looped and then you'll hear it looped until the end of the song.

Beck's voice shifts, too, from song to song or from word to word. Beck seems to be five lead singers on this album. He sings with a folky/country drawl. He raps. He wails in falsetto, paying homage to Prince. Describing his other voices is impossible.

I can only anticipate, I cannot predict, what Beck will do for Midnite Vultures' encore. Whatever it is (whatever Beck wants to do), I'm sure it will be as opposite and as identical to any previous Beck album as Midnite Vultures (or any previous Beck album) is.

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