Album Reviews

Beck – Guerolito

(Polydor) UK release date: 23 January 2006

Last year’s Guero was an important album for Beck. A very important album. It was, in fact, his most interesting, beguiling and addictive material since 1996’s much-lauded Odelay. Indeed, over time Guero might even prove to surpass its spiritual predecessor – not that anyone seems to have noticed yet, though.

Surely, then, there can be no better time to commission a track-by-track reworking by your favourite peers… right? On the one hand, the source material is richer than chocolate flavoured sugar, suggesting, perhaps, that it would take an imbecile of gargantuan proportions to render such sweetness bland. On the other hand, however, Guero is the keenest recent indication that Beck is still alive and well – should such a pulse be tampered with?

The early signs are good; Homelife‘s backwoods kidnapping of E-Pro throws the fuzzy bass out onto the veranda in favour of an altogether creepier approach. As is the case with the entire disc, Mr Hansen’s distinctive vocal stylings are the stitches in the Frankenstein music’s flesh, just about holding the operation together – even when limbs flail and straps creak. His unaltered presence also makes for the facsimile preservation of Guero’s often-absurdist lyrics, which is a relief more than anything.

Sauntering on, Islands take Qu� Onda Guero to Hawaii for cocktails and sunsets; Octet drag Girl through an alternate dimension of reverbing pianos and rumbling percussion; and Air prove their worth as electronic performers by making Missing sound like, well, Electronic Performers (“We are the synchronisers,” I remember them droning in the 2001 album opener. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, apparently). A short while later, Boards Of Canada offer a similarly predictable treatment for Broken Drum – all backwards melodies and ambient structures (not entirely surprising, but great nonetheless).

Guerolito is not quite worthy of a standing ovation, however: Adrock‘s minimalist contribution is distinctly half-arsed; Mario C‘s Earthquake Weather trivilises one of Guero’s most enjoyable moments with an overtly thoughtful – though not particularly enjoyable – gameplan (or is it just that the original was so good?); El-P‘s interpretation of Scarecrow, meanwhile, is much like a pencil sketch of the Mona Lisa – indubitably worthy, unless the master copy happens to be at hand.

Over the course of the LP, nevertheless, the toe-tapping comfortably outweighs the head-scratching: 8Bit‘s Hell Yes runs its original close, and John King‘s Living Daylights-esque Rental Car has to be heard to be believed. Moreover, the omission of Clap Hands (not actually a remix) from Guero’s tracklisting will have you body popping with perplexity.

As is the case with most remix (and, indeed, B-side) collections, Guerolito is not intended as a main course. It is, perhaps, the soup du jour to its big brother LP’s main course – or maybe even the dessert, for those who have masticated and digested the original and are hungry for more. While a starter or soufl� this may be, it remains as tempting as any course bearing the Beck endorsement.

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