From time to time, we round up the all-important, all-summarizing last sentences of the biggest new-music reviews. This time around, we look at the critical reaction to Beck’s rush-released collaboration with Danger Mouse, Modern Guilt, which hits stores tomorrow.
• “With its off-the-cuff cover, brevity, and ramshackle feel, Modern Guilt comes off like Beck’s attempt to outrun those songwriting complications. But the reluctance to break with his own conventions is still evident. The album ends with a look ahead: ‘I don’t know where I’ve been, but I know where I’m going/ To that volcano/ I don’t want to fall in, though/ Just want to warm my bones on that fire a while.’ It’s a cautious prophesy–maybe too cautious.” [Pitchfork]
• “‘Chemtrails,’ the prettily trippy first single, flirts with Aquarian Age rapture even as the flowers woven into the singer’s golden locks wilt in the harsh light of a damaged ozone layer (‘That’s where we’ll be when we die in the slipstream/We’ll climb in a hole in the sky’). And when Beck sings, as he does on the thumping, percussive ‘Soul of a Man,’ ‘Beat my bones against the wall/Staring down an empty hall/Deep down in a hollow log/Coming home like a letter bomb,’ Burton makes the ultimate endgame sound like a party you’d still want to be invited to–one that even Beck might enjoy, despite himself.” [EW]
• “The first half is first-rate Beck, particularly the way the hymn-like melody of ‘Chemtrails’ morphs into a chaotic finale. But the latter half of the disc sounds half-finished, as ‘Soul of a Man’ pounds a pedestrian blues riff into tedium and ‘Replica’ dabbles awkwardly in the mid-’90s British dance music known as drums-and-bass. As entrancing as Modern Guilt sounds, its slap-dash songwriting makes it an inconsistent listen.” [Chicago Tribune]
• “Modern Guilt feels like a vanity project: there is no attempt to reach out, none of the classic pop singles Beck has been revered for, just 10 inward-looking, unlovable tracks. ‘Orphans’ is a clever rewrite of Free’s ‘Wishing Well,’ and ‘Chemtrails’ is muzzy shoegazing. Perhaps this is a good time to say goodbye.” [Guardian]