Beck Midnite Vultures (DGC/Interscope)
A review by Courtney Knopf
Aside from "Making all the lesbians scream," Beckís mission with his newest
album, Midnite Vultures, is to make love to our ears. And after
listening to the finished product on a nearly continuous loop for the past
month, I can say without a doubt that he succeeds tremendously. Midnite
Vultures is a funk infused, tongue in cheek sex-fest that blends his
signature folk & hip-hop mixture with rap, rock and some really, really
funky basslines that could double as the soundtrack to a porn flick.
Strongly recalling elements of Princeís Sign O The Times, Beck
subjects us to an all out postmodern musical frenzy thatís harder to stop
than an oncoming train.
Produced by Mr. Hansen with the aid of long time Beastie Boys collaborator
Mickey Petralia, Midnite Vultures oozes sex from every pore. Heís
stepped out of the mellow, melancholy twang of Mutations and morphed
into a libidinous lothario whoís looking to get into your pants. "This
is the real me, ladies,"he purrs on "Broken Train," which is probably
the only song to ever include the pick-up line "Tell me whatís your zip
code, baby?" Definitely not 90210.
Born and raised in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake, Beck has a
unique take on his fellow Angelenos. "Hollywood Freaks" knowingly skewers
L.A. scenesters in a deadpan imitation of Puffy. Rapping about "hot sex in
back rows" and "tricked out Hyundais" over a porno bassline and scratching
courtesy of the Dust Brothers, itís like being invited into the back of a
limo to do some blow. "Get Real Paid," an 80ís throwback thatís a distant
relative of "Electric Avenue" opens with the sound of moving hydraulics and
metal clanging against metal, supposedly the sound two robots would make in
the heat of copulation. Randy automatons? Welcome to Beckís new sound. Itís
hedonistic and decadent; a frenzied barrage of sounds destined to make for
great party music.
In the first single "Sexx Laws," the red-headed stepchild of Motown and
Sun Studios, horn arrangements and a banjo live in harmony while Beck sings
about "Brief encounters in Mercedes Benz" and being a "Full grown man."
From start to finish, Beck is in complete control, though occasionally heís
aided by a few guests. Joining him on this album are former Smiths
guitarist Johnny Marr and electro-folk chanteuse Beth Orton. Marr lends his
guitar to the track "Milk & Honey," while Orton provides backing vocals to
the only ballad on the album, "Beautiful Way," a languid and twangy song
that goes to show Beck will probably never lose his inner cowboy, no matter
how much Dionysian debauchery his alter ego may be participating in.
The piece de resistance is "Debra," the albumís closing track, an
unabashedly down and dirty slow-jam about a girl he met at the Glendale
Galleria. Co-written with John King and Mike Simpson (AKA the Dust
Brothers), the beauty of the song is not only the seriousness with which he
embraces the cheesy 70ís R&B grooves and glass-breaking high notes, but
also because itís unapologetically about getting two sisters into bed with
him. Originally recorded for Odelay, "Debra" has become a staple of
Beckís live show and usually finds him down on his knees with all the
showmanship of James Brown, crooning for the ladies to "Step inside my
Huyndai." And all of this without a hint of irony. Heís serious about
making sweet love down by the fire. And by the time you finish listening to
Midnite Vultures, youíll want to be next in line.
Catch Beck December 4th on Saturday Night Live, and on the
Tonight Show on Friday, December 10th. A full scale tour kicks off in
January. Check out www.beck.com for more information.
If you haven't seen it already, check out Courtney's Top Ten Albums of 1999