Release Date: Mar 29, 2005
Record label: Geffen
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Beck Hansen's last two albums were trying affairs: on both Midnite Vultures and Sea Change, he appeared to be trying on genres like fancy dress. By contrast, Guero sounds instantly Beck-like, sharing its producers, the Dust Brothers, and its freewheeling ethos with 1996's widely adored Odelay. Whether you regard this as a cynical attempt to claw back lost fans or a welcome end to Beck's airless genre exercises depends on how much you enjoy the results.
Ever since his thrilling 1994 debut with Mellow Gold, each new Beck album was a genuine pop cultural event, since it was never clear which direction he would follow. Kicking off his career as equal parts noise-prankster, indie folkster, alt-rocker, and ironic rapper, he's gone to extremes, veering between garishly ironic party music to brooding heartbroken Baroque pop, and this unpredictability is a large part of his charm, since each album was distinct from the one before. That remains true with Guero, his eighth album (sixth if you don't count 1994's Stereopathetic Soul Manure and One Foot in the Grave, which some don't), but the surprising thing here is that it sounds for all the world like a good, straight-ahead, garden-variety Beck album, which is something he'd never delivered prior to this 2005 release.
“Something always missing, always someone missing something,” Beck repeats listlessly over the fade-out of “Missing,” a phrase that sums up the overall anxt-ridden vibe of Guero. His 2002 effort, the darkly beautiful and spare Seachange, forsook his customarily post-modern genre-hodgepodge in favor of clarity, dividing critics over the seriousness of the venture. I found it moving and disturbing, with lyrics and arrangements complementing each other to produce a series of mature reflections on romantic disillusion.