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ISSUE 116 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/4/2002

Beck comes back

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, October 4, 2002

Beck sings in "Loser," his 1994 breakthrough hit, "Im a loser baby, so why dont you kill me?" On his newest album, Sea Change, he might just mean it. Swelling strings, silent sighs, and poisoned moods are pervasive on the most melancholy, and also the best, album of Becks illustrious career. A huge departure from the sex-crazed whirlwind that was 1999s Midnight Vultures, Sea Change brings out the acoustic soul that has been absent from Becks music since One Foot in the Grave, his first release back in 1992. Beck has always been an artist that defies characterization, but one can truly count this album in the same cannon of Dylans Blood on the Tracks or Springsteens dark and spare Nebraska. Written following the most painful breakup of Becks young life, this album bleeds from every pore, most evident in "Guess Im Doing Fine," in which Beck laments, "Its only life that Im living/Its only tears that Im crying/Its only you that Im losing/Guess Im doing fine." The album is a towering achievement in grief, and it sounds as though Beck paid a dear price for his beautiful misery. Beck has found a way to make his pain the pain of the audience, and for that, this album must be considered something truly special. He shows flashes of melancholy brilliance in his mostly acoustic 1998 release, Mutations, but nothing near the accessible compositions heard on Sea Change. The albums single upbeat tune, the Lou Reed-esque "Sunday Sun," is about as uplifting as a last good-bye. The realization that everything must come to an end is a constant theme throughout Sea Change, and Beck never lets us forget that darkness will always fall after a beautiful sunset. What moments of hope there are on Sea Change are few and far between. Song titles like "Already Dead" and "Lost Cause" dont offer much optimism from an artist that used to throw caution into the wind, but lyrics like "Let the golden age begin/let the window down/feel the moonlight on your skin" give a glimmer of positivity in an otherwise endless sea of pain. When Beck burst onto the pop music scene in 1994, he was immediately seen as a genius, crafting folk melodies mixed with hip-hop beats and a strong rock sensibility. Until now, Beck has not strayed from his comfortable position as the neo-folk alternative rock superstar every loser wanted to be. On Sea Change Beck lets us all inside, and shows that he really isnt the impervious-to-pain cool dude we all thought he was. He is simply Beck Hansen: frail, emotional, desperate, and more human than anyone in pop music today. Sea Change stands as a testament to suffering and depression, and it is far too good to be sad about it.

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