Becks latest release, Guero, is the same kind of stylistic grab bag that made his 1995 breakthrough Odelay such a unique and fun album; Guero bounces from 70s retro-rock to techno-hop with effortless glee. Beck clearly has a lot more fun here than on his last album, the dirge-fest that was 2002s Sea Change. The first three tracks on Guero are a breath of fresh air, a declaration from the artist that his dark days have passed, however slightly. E-Pro, the albums driving first single, is classic Devils Haircut-style Beck, complete with a na-na chorus and deep fuzz bass. The next track, Que Onda Guero, finds Beck awash in Latin rhythm and language, accompanied by often-hilarious spoken commentary.
Despite the albums other fantastic, upbeat songs, the truly shining moments are more soulful and introspective. The albums epic midpoint comes with the wildly creative, dark bossa nova of Earthquake Weather. The song is the story of a life gradually falling apart at the seams, with every struggle bringing down the proverbial walls of safety like a tiny earthquake. The imagery is haunting and perfectly bolstered by a nearly hypnotic, drifting guitar riff.
The high point of the album is the Burt Bacharach-tinged Missing, a complex, multilayered song featuring Becks voice prominently and beautifully. More than anything, the song demonstrates the marked improvement in Becks vocal ability since his super-slacker debut album more than a decade ago. The lyrics are airtight as always, and Beck uses his command of language with weightless ease. The last minute of Missing features a tongue-twisting abstract mantra which ranks among the most dynamic performances of Becks nearly 20-year career and caps perhaps the best opening salvo of songs from any Beck album.
Overall, Guero isnt the kind of monumental evolution in sound that one would expect of an eclectic artist like Beck, and on that level, it has to be seen as a small disappointment. However, the album serves as a welcome reminder of Becks mastery of musical art and offers up several truly melodic gems. Gueros greatest strength is that it is more purely Beck than anything he has done since Odelay. While its much more than an Odelay clone, Guero does, at times, resemble its now-classic predecessor. Thankfully for Beck, the resemblance is almost always positive.