Midnite Vulture’s lobotomy beats faded as Beck drove east into the desert, and soon he’d eased into the contented weariness of Sea Change. That transition was jarring for some. But by 2002, most Beck fans were rolling with his shifts of music and mood, and Guero rewards that perseverance. It brings Beck’s two brains into a harmonic space just to the left of a Silverlake sunset, where he’s no longer the party’s horniest or saddest, just its most quietly cool. Single “E-Pro” is a throwaway of the best kind — its riff ruckus scrapes over a bass bump lifted from the Beastie Boys, and reintroduces the successful Beck/Dust Brothers axis. Both “Qué Onda Guero” and “Girl” deftly fuse the elemental Beck — hip-hop theft, barrio field recordings, electro-acoustic hybridism, and a gorgeous pop hook — while the concise “Black Tambourine” illustrates his maturity with a consistent rhythmic strut; in its glide is the afterhours party of a filthy rich thirtysomething with an intact soul. “Farewell Ride” returns to broken folk territory, but with its spooky percussion slough and manipulated harmonica squeals it cuts like a murder ballad for the robots of Westworld. Guero is great at this kind of evocative feel, integrating equally its adult sexual high jinks, moments of grace, and rich harmonium tears. That said, its best moment is still its most irrepressible jam. Is it ridonkulous Beckspeak (“Perfunctory idols rewriting their bibles!”) spit over watery bloops and a beat that thumps like Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”? Beck says, “Hell Yes.”
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].