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So it's Beck to basics then, if by basics you mean chopping things up and funking around. On face value this is more like his Grammy winning 'Odelay' than anything else, which means basically it's catchy and you can dance to it. Go deeper and you'll find 'Guero' and its predecessor are quite different. Where the 1996 album dared to splice genres with the sort of willful conceit and disregard only displayed by truly touched artists, this takes us nowhere new.

'E-Pro' is as good a place as any to start. While possessing some of the ingredients that made the Californian a cult hero everywhere, it contains none of the colour, or the sheer verve that made Beck important. This being a track featuring a snatch from the Beasties' superlative 'So Watch'cha Want', it'll do. And that's it.

By the way, did Beck grow a beard when he was recording this album or something? You know, in the way Jim Morrison grew a beard and all of a sudden started sounding desperate and gruff, like he was about to wipe out in a Paris bathtub? 'Que Onda Guero' is playful with its language (or languages) but the chorus is weak. 'Girl' is better, but where did the Eddie Vedder impression come from? See too 'Broken Drum', where it becomes even more pronounced; perhaps Beck's voice was abducted by aliens, and they've replaced it with a vox synthesis sampled from boring American radio stations. I mean, on 'Missing' he even starts to resemble Sting.

Still, back to 'Girl', where at least he manages to muster enough delicacy of touch to produce what could be a feel good hit of the summer. 'Hell Yes' too is unusual enough to be interesting, and thrilling enough to get under your skin, with Mr Hanson's desultory falsetto set against an undulating beat and some nifty guitar picking - almost hitting the realms of sexy. Plus extra track 'Send a Message To Her' is a jaunty number that reminds us of Peter Gabriel at points, never a bad thing.

Too often tracks drag us down below the high standard an artist like Beck Hanson has set himself. Red Hot Chili Peppers outtakes with some harmonica and vocoder balanced incongruously on top are frankly not good enough. 'Guero' is Beck's most understated offering yet, and considering it's electronic and the follow up to 'Sea Change', doesn't really say much for it at all. I tried but I'm just not feeling it.

Jeremy Allen

reviewed on 24 Mar 2005

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