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Beck
Mutations

Geffen Records

If any of you are writers, let's just say that this is, without a doubt, the all-time greatest CD to write to. Beck fan or not (I'd say I'm a casual fan at best), there's something about this disc that just makes the process of sitting at a computer a bit less horrible and lonely. Once, while listening to it at my parent's home, my father wandered in and asked, in all seriousness, "Is this the Beatles?" What more of an endorsement do you need, really?

Track 1: Cold Brains

Not the greatest track on the disc, but gets the ball rolling well enough. I've got the second set of corrections for my first book due tomorrow morning, and a blank mind, so I'm desperate. Not even iced coffee has helped so far, so I break out the big guns. By the time Beck's ripping off lines like "a worm of hope/a hangman's rope," I'm practically flying. This is the next best thing to getting high, which I've never been able to do and get any work done, and which is also quite expensive. I can sense the rest of the album stretched out ahead, though the whole thing is really only registering subconsciously. As I think I read on ESPN.com once, I'm "in the zone."

Track 2: Nobody's Fault But My Own

This mournful tune has a strange ability to facilitate comedy. I have no idea why, but it works. Perhaps it reminds me of horrible girlfriends past, and the need to exact my revenge through favorable book notices. Diabolically, I type away…

Track 3: Lazy Flies

"Out in the Mangroves, the Mynah birds cry"? I don't even know what "Mangroves" are and I'm still impressed. Meanwhile, I've just used the word "annoying" for the fifth time on one page. I really, really, really need to invest in a thesaurus. They should just give you one when you sell a book. Or at least enough money to go buy one. I'd be willing to bet that Beck has one. Or that he was home-schooled. Seriously, the guy has cool hair and can throw words like "Mangroves" around. What's next, rhyming "chewing dried meat" with "house of disrepute?" Oh, wait, he does that here, too. God, I admire him.

Track 4: Cancelled Check

Beck in an upbeat girl-baiting mood. In a word: awesome. And you just know that the girl in question probably doesn't have her own recording contract with which to strike back publicly. Genius. I'm actually bopping a bit to this one, engaged in a series of physical movements, which, if I possessed any tangible rhythm, could possibly be construed as "dancing." The phone rings and, in my revelry, I abandon my work and answer it. It's my girlfriend, calling long distance.

Track 5: We Live Again

Have you ever dated a dog owner? Do yourself a favor and don't. It's awful. The standard absurdity inherent to the long distance dating arrangement is only compounded by the presence of this foul, foul canine. Seriously, it's like dating a girl with ten kids. But who knew? I've never had a dog, nor have I ever dated someone who did. And what does it say about someone who would choose to acquire a mangy, misbehaved beast who will proceed to severely limit its owners' life choices for the next 14 years? Point being, she's canceling our weekend visit once again, due to lack of dog-walking options. Unless of course, I wish to travel to Philadelphia instead. Travel to Philadelphia? Again? Why don't I just throw my NY rent money in the trash? And who wants to go hang out with that dog, the very thought of which sends shivers down my spine? It's a German shepherd and, I tell you, it can smell the half-Jew on me. Anyway, this is by far the greatest song on the album, and I've just missed it.

Track 6: Tropicalia

While Beck is getting all intelligently satirical, I'm trapped in a decidedly lowbrow debate concerning the issue of whether or not my life-choice arguments, and resultant lack of dog-ownership empathy, might be construed as "Republican." Truth be known (and this is sure to scandalize most of you), I do consider myself somewhat partial to the Right (don't be alarmed: I'm pro-choice and all), but this has nothing to do with my ability to exhibit a little foresight where practical matters are concerned, and everything to do with the fact that I spent four years mired in the liberal playground of Boston, Massachusetts. I'm telling you, when Alec Baldwin materializes in your political science class to stump for Democratic Senate candidates, you'll turn Republican, too. Don't judge me, just trust me. It was horrifying. Anyway, do not utter the words "what did you think having a dog was going to be like?" if prospective suspicion of Grand Old Party allegiance upsets you.

Track 7: Dead Melodies

My girlfriend just hung up on me, so I'm able to take in the first half of this charming little dirge. "A laugh, a joke/A sentiment wasted." How apropos. Have you ever noticed how girls (maybe guys, too, I wouldn't know) claim to want a nice funny guy, but really want an asshole w/ a motorcycle and tattoos (oooh, dangerous) who can vaguely play the guitar? I have. I've said it once and I'll say it again, "You make them laugh, they wanna cry." The great thing about this album is that, before writing this review, I had no idea what the songs were titled, or even how many of them there are. One flows into the next, connecting together somehow emotionally, like a sort of mood opera. Which was what I was thinking when the phone rang again. I can't just ignore it, right?

Track 8: Bottle of Blues

She's insane. I'm speechless.

Track 9: O Maria

Not to be confused with the Blondie comeback chart-topper of similar name. It's interesting in that I've never once met a girl named Maria. Or perhaps not so interesting. Seriously, though, what are the odds? There's some great writing in this song, if you're a lyrics guy like me. "The fabric of folly is fallen apart at the seams….and I've been looking for my shadow/but this place is so bright and so clean."

My roommate just came home and turned the tv on, so I have to switch from the stereo to the little ghetto blaster in my bedroom, the result of which is that the album takes on a certain tinny quality, as if Beck is recording the track from a bottom of a well, or through one of those home-made paper cup telephones. Either someone in the mix booth fell asleep at the controls, or my speakers absolutely blow.

Track 10: Sing it Again

This is one of those songs you want to act your life out in slow motion to. It's gorgeous and practically elegiac. To be honest, I'm a bit depressed and so skip this one…

Track 11: Static

My roommate informs me that, as suspected, I'm right. The fact that she and her ex-boyfriend, while playing house in Albuquerque, New Mexico (of all places), thought it would be a fun idea to adopt a dog really isn't something I need to feel bad about not liking. I mean, I once cheesily picked out future kid names with my high school flame, but my girlfriend doesn't have to hear about it every day. And this new suggestion, that she enlist the services of her ex-boyfriend (Who still, believe it or not, insists on wearing a nose ring in broad daylight. Is it still 1994?) to watch the dog while she travels to New York for the weekend, is patently ludicrous, right? My best friend from high school and current roommate agrees that it is, so that's all the proof I need. I'm not going to put myself in a position where her ex-boyfriend gets to weigh in on whether and when we see each other. For example, I never want to hear the phrase "I can't come this weekend, my ex is busy" uttered. Never. And I'm sure George W would agree with me.

Track 12: Diamond Bollocks

It's pretty late and I'm beat. My editor, I hope, will push back my deadline one more day. This song is probably pretty good, but it has a way of flying under the radar. Something about it usually makes me restart the disc from the beginning at some point halfway through. Or I'll throw in Jay-Z as a chaser. But normally I just listen to this, over and over when I have some work to do. At a medium volume from an adjacent room. There's just something about it, something I can't quite put my finger on, and I know other writers who agree (one of whom burned it for me, so it's really been win-win). We probably won't break up. And I'm sure I'll be in Philly come Friday. Because I'm weak.

  -- Dave Gilmarten

 

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