Review: Beck - Colors (2017)
The flat product of an exhausted rebel
Now on his thirteenth studio album having surpassed twenty years in the industry, it is hard to believe that Beck (Bek David Campbell) is still yet to hit fifty years of age. The multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer has become renowned for his eclectic signature sound which incorporates elements of country, hip-hop and electronica. Accumulating plaudits from fellow New Yorkers in opposition to politically-charged contemporary folk music, in addition to keeping trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack on their toes throughout the 90s with his stridden and groove centred drum sampling. 'Odelay' (1996) arguably best showcased his accomplished sonic identity and furthermore, served as his first hit album in the UK (now certified as platinum) and is still critically considered to be worthily placed alongside greatest albums of all time.
Despite being four years in the making, however, 'Colors' (2017) fails to even serve as a reminder of how Beck was so able in knowing the qualities and boundaries of contemporary music whilst being unafraid to break them. On this occasion he opted to delegate production duties with Greg Kurstin and this decision in places has its merits particularly with the crisp compression which enhances the textural richness of the kick and snare in the drum loops, though regrettably this still fails to save the grooves that rose him to significance from sounding tired, bored and exhausted in comparison. It could be argued that the production choices are so tightly compressed and refined that much of this album sounds ubiquitous and henceforth recycled, causing the listener to lose interest before the songs themselves have a chance to hold their own. The Jean-Michel Jarre inspired ambience in opening track 'Colours' for example, is, unfortunately, the only feature that could be perceived as remotely engaging and 'No Distraction' would sit perfectly as background music in a high street retailer on the grounds that it is virtually unnoticeable. In addition to 'Dear Life' which pulls off a relatively decent tribute to any of McCartney's contributions to Abbey Road (1969), the only other worthwhile contribution to Beck's eclectic discography is the updated version of 'Dreams' which aside from the complementary acoustic guitar layers in the bridge that serve as highlights in the alterations made, revealed itself to the world in 2015. 'Wow', the second single to proceed the album is perhaps the point where Beck most lives up to his reputation as a pop- sensitive dissenter through experimenting with an inordinate fusion of trap and isolated woodwind arrangements, however the dirgy exemplification of 'Wow' in the chorus comes across as a somewhat embarrassing attempt at millennial irony.
Scorning someone with Beck's credentials is not something one commits to apathetically, however 'Colors' is so un-radical that the irony which once offered Beck distinction in a busy crowd almost comes across as reactionary. He may not have risen to prominence through rampantly challenging the authoritative rituals of convention to Ice Cube's level of ferocity, yet this misses the point: with the exception of prospective disinterest, 'Colors' does not seek challenge anything at all. 'Wow' therefore, is the last word that comes to mind in describing it.