ALL THRILLER…NO FILLER
For a man who’s always struck me as someone who acts like he doesn’t know what day it is, Beck has remained resolutely sharp when it comes to his vision(s) of pop.
I like him. He’s a man (or again at least comes across as a man) almost entirely unaffected by the music biz: approachable and unphased by the glitz. It’s as if he just wanders through his pop career, oblivious to the entourages and pressures that surround him.
The last time I interviewed him in person was at Glastonbury last year, in the warren of dressing rooms that are housed in a massive marquee near the Pyramid Stage: a place where a lot of people feel pretty pleased with themselves.
Beck, however wandered in, as if he’d just popped to the corner shop and accidentally found himself to be one of the star turns of the day.
The only, occasionally, unnerving thing about him, is the pauses between words or sentences, as his mind ticks over. Some of my questions waited so long for an answer they thought they’d been stood up, so went home. It would be useful being able to get on his wavelength, but this is a level of laidback that the common man has yet to attain.
He did tell us about the album though (to be fair he didn’t have much choice because I’d heard four tracks by then) and hinted at an autumn 2016 release.
Now, a full year late, here’s ‘Colours’, an apt title for one of Beck’s most upbeat and shiny records ever. Honestly. This is a buoyant Beck. A Beck who has found a new space and purpose. A new challenge.
“I decided to work on it a bit more (he pauses) to take another year to get all the fine points and detail right. Because it’s a different kind of record, it’s a bit more of a (pause) painstaking, detailed (pause) thing.”
What it is, is a modern pop record by Beck. It has the uplighting and chrome of modern pop production, a cleanliness of sound that is a sign of the times, but it’s still magically Beck. It’s Beck’s quirks that give it soul.
When he says that he was aspiring to make an album like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, it’s very telling. This is his pursuit of the big, rounded, definitive pop record. Nothing will stand in his way (he wouldn’t notice anyway).
So we get an album that sounds like a reawakening; liberally spread with references to feeling liberated, as if this record is some kind of relief, something that he’s been desperate to get out of his system.
And while the production is consistently slick, often intricate and fascinatingly shiny, the music – as you’d expect of Beck – roams all over the place from the upbeat ‘Seventh Heaven’ to the bar room 10CC romp ‘Dear Life’ and a funky, beat driven thing called ‘No Distraction’. Add to them the oddly out of place ‘Wow’ (which on reflection sounds like a warped western theme) and the stomping ‘Up All Night’ and everything seems to be going swimmingly.
Until…you reach the almost fatalistic ‘Fix Me’, which is (possibly) an intentional anti-climax. Not as in ‘let down’ but as in a final, obtuse twist in the tale – the antithesis of everything I’d expected and a purposeful pulling on of the brakes, just as we were preparing to watch him amble off into the horizon.
It’s almost as if he wanted to leave us questioning where he goes next? After this zeitgeist pop album, a happy record despite moments of lyrical insecurity, what lies in wait?
If this is ‘Thriller’, will the next one be Bad?