Beck is back. And he’s back to doing what we love best after making that confessional, maudlin album about heartbreak in 2002, Sea Change. He’s back working with the Dust Brothers, who produced his brightest and most coherent album Odelay almost a decade ago.
But while the soul-searching searing of Sea Change has gone all is not forgotten and the diminutive Mr Hansen retains just a smidge of the former’s humility and melancholy while rediscovering the alluringly anarchic musical patchwork that made his name.
We all know what that entails: some deliciously silly lyrics – think vegetable vans and lollipops, arcade-style sound effects and random shoutings in Spanish. Indeed, “guero” is Hispanic slang for a white boy.
And who says white boys can’t rap? Okay, he’s no Jungle Brothers or Jurassic 5, but then, we don’t want him to be. And he’s no Vanilla Ice either. Just a slightly goofy songsmith who gently warbles and rambles his way through a smorgasbord of songs – all as different as they are alike.
From the first riff of opening track and debut single E-pro Beck’s re-found enthusiasm for his music is abundant. Built around the crunching riff from the Beastie Boys‘ So What’cha, there’s a joyous spontaneity and lightness of touch that builds to a rip-roaring naa-naaah chorus mirrored in vocals and guitar.
Title track Guero is Gringo hip-hop cool, while acoustic-electro fused Girl will surely be a sound of the summer. Hell Yes shoots a blast of 21st century funk and Black Tambourine shakes out all the stops with a tremolo of tribal percussion.
And the ubiquitous Jack White pops up once again, playing bass on the sing-along lackadaisical blues of Go It Alone while producer Tony Hoffer gets behind the controls for Farewell Ride. It’s not all upbeat and up-tempo, of course, and Beck’s father David Campbell is on board to arrange the stirring Missing. Down-tempo Broken Drum is a haunting and poignant digital power ballad.
Guero a riproaring ride through pop, hip-hop, bossa nova and more – disparate, perhaps, in another’s hands but Beck distinctive rich and mildly ironic voice holds it all together.
It’s too early to say whether Guero will produce eternal anthems the like of Devil’s Haircut, or the MTV slacker generation fave Loser, but is it good? As Beck might suggest: Hell Yes!