Record #396: Beck – Guero (2005)

For my love of Beck, his section of my shelf is admittedly filled with his least Beckish releases
While Mr. Hansen is a musical chameleon of the highest caliber, he is, first and foremost, a master of irony. Despite being one of the most heartbreaking singer-songwriters in the last twenty years (seriously, spin Sea Change again), that was never an office he sought out. 
He cut his teeth melding underground indie rock with tongue-in-cheek white-boy hip hop, spitting word salad whilst famously accompanied by Two Turntables and a Microphone. But, visionary that he was, he got bored with that formula and sprawled out.
But after the detours of the psychedelic Mutations, the R&B future disco Midnight Vulturesand the tender masterpiece Sea Change, he was ready to reclaim his birthright. 
Geuro (aptly named after the Mexican slang term for “white boy”) is a return to form of the highest caliber (though admittedly, my introduction to Beck was The Information so Geuro was lost on me for a while). “E-Pro” rips right out of the gate with a “Devil’s Haircut” style guitar riff and some word salad rap. “Que Onda Guero” double’s down, upping the hip hop and turning the “make sense” knob all the way down. “Hell Yes” even reintroduces those famous turntables.
But don’t for a second think that Beck’s return to fun means he’s done being a Serious Artist™. On the contrary, this record is enhanced by a number of songs that wouldn’t have felt out of place on the rapless, atmospheric Sea Change
“Broken Drum” is a moseying low tempo ballad augmented with acoustic guitars and rich ambient textures. “Earthquake Weather” is a slowed down funk tune that’s as tender as it is sexy. “Girl” is one of the finest pop tunes he’s ever done.
And while I might have been tempted early on to think of this album as The Information in larval form, there’s no denying that Guero stands tall on its own two legs as a shining gem of Beck’s already pretty shiny discography.

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