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Beck | Mutations (Geffen)
Nowhere as roughly hewn as his low-key 1995 release One Foot In The Grave, Mutations was nonetheless trumpeted as a companion piece to that album, rather than a linear follow up to his last, the million-selling Odelay. (Whatever. Seems like an irrelevant qualification to make really, the sound of a marketing office without faith in the artist's output or the audience's intelligence.) The man himself has never been shy about proclaiming his love of the raw sounds of folk and blues, and it's as a post-modern regurgitation of this tradition that attempts at pinning Beck down most often settle for. Without sounding derivative or laboured, Mutations delves into this rich well with one hand, leaving the other free to update the blend with snatches of feedback, wheezing harmonica, harpsichord, sitar and a laid back attitude. Close in spirit to Odelay's Jackass, with it's reclined strum, Mutations churns up country, psychedelia, and folk balladeering, all in a muted version of the stylistic soup that made Beck the hippest kid in the playground. Lazy Flies is a Beatles-esque avalanche of words, while Tropicalia is an easy-going bossa nova. Free of any disingenuous lo-fi production or sulking introspection, Mutations is more relaxed than Odelay, if slightly less engaging. It seems like Beck isn't trying so darn hard, and Mutations is all the better for it.
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue