Beck

A decade after he redefined a post-grunge alt-rock counterculture with a two-bit accidental call to arms called "Loser," is there a musical stone 34-year-old Beck Hansen hasn't turned over, or at least tried to? He's done everything from bongwater-stain hip-hop to yellow-latex pop-funk to dirty-leaves folk-blues to Laurel Canyon strum-rock to...

Oh, sorry--I fell asleep trying to think up a cleverly hyphenated way to position Guero, Beck's eighth (or ninth) album in his increasingly expansive body of work. It's not sad, but it's not entirely happy, either. It's not acoustic, but it's not electro. He produced it with the Dust Brothers, but it doesn't sound like a new version of Odelay, the 1996 disc they made together with more than two turntables and a microphone.

Guero sounds like Beck, which at this point in the dude's career is as useful a description as you can come up with (at least without utilizing a hyphen or six). There are sweet beats and cool riffs and rooster calls and jumbled wordplay and a guy talking about the new Yanni cassette. The album doesn't reflect a sea change within Beck's world, even if his marriage and his recent foray into fatherhood suggest that he's experienced one anyway. So what's next, Pops?

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Mikael Wood