Album: Beck, Modern Guilt (XL)

4.00

Bashed out, by his standards, in ten weeks, this is Beck's most satisfying album since Sea Change (2002).

Click here to listen and download this album

Co-producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, shares a taste for psychedelia, and subtly shores up Beck's pop instincts, unerring in his Odelay pomp, but tired and lazy lately.

Burton also repeats his Gnarls Barkley trick of musically sugaring a singer's nightmarish songs. "Chemtrails" is the first hint something's up, as Beck's high, withdrawn voice hovers over Jason Falkner's swirling guitar, and contemplates a world "swallowed by evil". Where Sea Change fed off a recent break-up, the impetus here is spiritual dismay.

"You treat distraction like it's a religion," Beck chides, and his own Scientologist beliefs seem near the surface, as he tries to transcend a fallen world. But, splashed by synth-orchestral colours and jungle beats, this is an enjoyable account of alienation. "Profanity Prayers" includes lines worthy of Dylan, updated for 21st-century consumerist ennui: "And you wait at the light/ And watch for a sign that you're breathing..." Oddly, Beck, once typed as a post-modern dilettante, now convincingly pleads for something real.

Pick of the album: "Chemtrails", "Modern Guilt", "Replica", "Profanity Prayers", "Volcano"

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