Arts and craftsmen

After the Beasties and Beck, the Dust Brothers strike out on their own

"Also, when Paul's Boutique came out, the critics and all these people were saying, 'Oh, this record is great. It's the Sgt. Pepper's of rap, this and that.' But when it came out and didn't do all that well commercially, they all said, 'Oh, well, the record is ahead of its time.' So we thought, 'Wow, if our music's that ahead of its time, we better chill out for a minute and let everybody catch up.'"

Which brings them to Beck and Odelay, an album that picks up where Paul's Boutique left off and carries the ball to the goal line. It is, quite simply, the most exciting record of the year--one on which every second is a trip and tumble to a different place, whether it's the psychedelic freak-out at the end of "Novacane," the unexpected conjunto sample in "Hotwax," the ersatz rock of "Minus," or the deadpan soul of "Where It's At."

Odelay is what happens when a fallen folk-bluesman steps into the studio with two white funk fans, sparks a fattie, then writes and records till night slips imperceptibly into morning. It's a soundtrack for the stoned, an in-joke with a slurred punch line that anyone can understand. There's no such thing as a non sequitur for Beck and the Dust Brothers: Every sample, every aside, every random word is there for a reason--even if it's for no reason at all.

Perhaps that's where Odelay garners its media comparisons to Paul's Boutique: Both albums do black-and-white with amazing grace and style, and if you pay attention from start to finish, there's something new underneath every layer. There's never a dull moment, even during the boring ones; they're both records made by and for the Attention Deficit Disorder Generation.

Simpson sees the comparisons between the two records, even if he doesn't quite know where A connects to B. "It's hard to say what Paul's Boutique did, because it had such a slow build," he says. "I think it opened up a lot of people's minds to hearing all different styles of music, and for the Beasties it was a good sophomore record to establish that they weren't one-hit wonders--that there was some depth there.

"I'm sure Beck was concerned about being taken seriously as an artist. For him, 'Loser' was an afternoon in the studio; then two years later they were like, 'Hey, we want to put this out,' and he was like, 'Oh, yeah, I remember that. Go ahead.' I think the Beck record will do the same thing for a lot of people that the Beasties' did. They'll listen to it and think, 'Oh, wow, maybe country music isn't that bad.' It will open people's minds a little bit. Everything doesn't have to sound the same. In the old days, people made records more as pieces of art, and if you listen to the Beck record, every song is great. Maybe this will force artists to take a look at what they're doing and realize this is about art.

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