14 October 2017

Beck - Colors

So, this album is slightly late…...  When Beck released Morning Phase (our review cleverly linked here), it was supposed to be accompanied by a second album.  But things have not gone to plan, his documented health issues, the various tours that needed to be completed, all distractions than can cause plans to be changed.  Due to all the sprawling chaos, the recording sessions with Greg Kurstin’s has been delayed and postponed at times, leading to a fractured production process.  Work on Colors started in 2013, so you would expect that it has been released without any flaws.  The first single from Colors “Dreams” was released in 2015, with three other singles coming over the next two years.  Now, as with all Beck albums, he has changed his style once again – this time he has gone art-pop according to some reviews I have read beforehand, but am I gonna agree with those sentiments?  Personally, I am still awaiting the louder album that was due to follow Morning Phase, but I can only dream at this juncture.  Now, without much further ado, it is time to see what Beck has been up to……

01 – Colors

Starting with the title track, “Colors” begins this album with a Euro-centric, modern electronica disco piece that is full of breakbeats, panpipe keyboards, atmospheric moments to collect your breath and a production job that is second to none.  But it's a little hollow, as if there is a desperate grab towards past events occurring, and a desire for youthful experiences growning in an unhealthy fashion.  So, an interesting opening, but not one that sits well with me.

02 – Seventh Heaven

After the raindrop keyboard introduction, Beck goes Bruno Mars/Michael Jackson on “Seventh Heaven”. It's a shiny pop song, nothing more and nothing less to be honest.  For full disclosure, I find the production to be as brilliant as ever and the hook in the chorus is great to be honest.  But once again, that uneasy feeling is hard to shift on this song for me.  I cannot get rid of that vision of a Ferrari badge that needs to be added to the album cover, and “Seventh Heaven” does nothing to change this.

03 – I’m So Free

I’m So Free” suffers from a case of mis-heard lyrics for me, when I first heard the chorus, I though Beck was saying “I’m So Fake…”. Even after reading the lyrics over and over again, I cannot shake that mistake from my head, so I owe Beck an apology there.  Musically, it is a larger than life song which aims to be a crowd pleaser, with a chorus that will have people jumping up and down in unison. Those old-school indie rocker sensibilities start to creep through the pop veneer of the album, but it does nothing to change my view of the record.

04 – Dear Life

Starting with a piano introduction, “Dear Life” is a slower moment on this record, one which laments the world and is brimming with regret.  It's a straight forward pop number, one that could have easily been created by any charting acts over the last 20 years.  Once more, the production is on point, but I am still not loving "Dear Life" sadly.

05 – No Distraction

I think that “No Distraction” has truly took inspiration from the Bruno Mars song “Locked Out of Heaven”, with a positive uplift to the music.  Lyrically though, “No Distraction” is dealing with lost times, failed moments and indecisiveness.  With that sounds of desperation, this well produced song does not hold my attention as well as other songs on the record.  It is played well once again, but it's not his finest song in Beck’s long career.

06 – Dreams (Colors Mix)

A remix of the first single from this album is next, with “Dreams” hitting the dancefloor with a huge amount of swagger!  With a larger than life sound, “Dreams” hits all the right buttons to be an indie disco classic, you cannot deny that Beck has made a powerful pop number with “Dreams”, but it feels hollow where there should be a warmth to the sound.  Beautiful, but ultimately, empty.  For information purposes only, the deluxe version of this album has the original version of “Dreams” added at the end of the record.

07 – Wow

“Wow” is the only song of the whole album I can honestly say I don’t at least admire, which is not the case with the rest of the record.  It feels like a bad version of “Loser”, updated for the modern age and with no real conviction behind it.  I will move on swiftly, I don’t to waste my effort on this one.

08 – Up All Night

“Up All Night” is a song about sex, sexy, sexy, sex with the usual stellar production job to the music, but the words are not delivered with conviction for my money.  It's the ongoing theme of the album where you find cold where there should be warmth, amazing music which lacks a defined soul at its core.  It is played well, but there is not emotional attachment.

09 – Square One

“Square One” is the penultimate song of this album, a song which transcendence the overall empty feeling of the album.  It reminds me a lot of Ben Folds at his most outlandish, there is a humour to the song that has sorely been missing from this record.  Everything comes together, production, music, performance and the result is head and shoulders above everything else on the album.  Beck has always been able to do pop, this is proof positive of that.

10 – Fix Me

“Fix Me” is all about the desire to be washed away, to be lost and needing to start all over again.  "Fix Me" is a slow and moody song, the pop energy of the rest of Colors is nowhere to be seen on this one.  Beck has added a good ending to this record, but it's still not a song I would reach for if I wanted to listen to some Beck.

My gut feeling for this album is not good, but this must be explained.  I cannot shake the feeling that this album needs a Ferrari badge on the cover, as if the midlife crisis is in full effect.  It's either that or something has in Beck’s life to infuse this youthful desire, this energy into his current album, because it is a hollow record.  I love the production on this record, it sounds larger than life and it has a cutting-edge feel.  But hear me out here on this one, as I do have a few issues with the overall result.  Firstly, my end impression of Colors is that Beck has guested on his own album, one created with the assistance of Daft Punk, Bruno Mars and Justice with its Euro-Continental Disco vibe that incorporates a Taylor Swift on acid lyrical vibe.  It feels as if he is keeping up with the current sound of the world, even though it was started years ago (does that make him visionary?) and it doesn't sound natural when I am listening to it.  Secondly, even by Beck’s standards, the lyrics are not as strong as he has works he has produced before.  Some of the words are tortured into rhyming, when these usually feel like water flowing, as if they are written such easily it would defy the Gods.  Whilst I am moaning about those aspects of the album, I cannot claim that Colors is a badly performed album.  I don’t think Beck is capable of such a thing, not without starting Armageddon.  Musically, as I have mentioned throughout the review, the production job on Colors is great, I applaud him for following his own path on this pop record.  But I cannot say this is the best thing Beck has done, it's just not up, it doesn't come close to his own high standards and that will become more apparent through the years.  Colors is a fun ride for sure, but that feeling of midlife crisis is haunting this record.  That said, at least he has kept it interesting and no-one would have seen this coming, so business as usual with Beck…. maybe.

6 out of ten – Now, I see where you are going, but it is not quite there.

Top track – Square One

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