Have you ever come across an album that you really enjoy – by a band that you don’t? I don’t want to imply that I dislike everything Beck’s done aside from Mellow Gold, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. I did like “Devil’s Haircut” from Odelay, but that’s about it. I had a girlfriend who was a big fan, but I never got into Odelay. And as such I didn’t bother to listen to Mutations or anything else until the huge buzz around Morning Phase caused me to listen to that album last year. I still have to say that Mellow Gold is the only Beck album I enjoy.
I suppose a big part of this is the lo-fi quality of this album. It sounds like it was recorded on a cheap boombox in a shed. But that suits Beck’s songs and style more than the polish of the Dust Brothers and professional studios.
I’m sure everyone knows the song “Loser.” I really enjoy that song and not only is it the best mixing of folk and rap since Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” it’s also the only example of the mixture I can think of. I know Beck’s music is generally considered alternative, but I think experimental folk is a more apt description.
“Pay No Mind (Snoozer)” has always been my favorite. A nice mellow voice and guitar piece with pleasant lyrics about toilets overflowing and a giant dildo crushing the sun. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again and laughing at dirty jokes.
Originally I had the album on a cassette tape and when I got to the song “Truckdrivin’ Neighbors Downstairs (Yellow Sweat)” I always thought something was wrong with my tape or the player because of the slowed down vocals. Of course, the rest of the album was fine so after a few listens I realized this was the way it was supposed to be.
“Beercan” sounds like something I heard in a commercial with it’s ‘How do you like me now?’ hook. Maybe that’s where Toby Keith got the idea for his much bigger song. Then “Motherfuker” comes at you and kicks you in the head with something I can only describe as faux-metal.
The album is littered with things I love. Scratchy distorted vocals, odd samples and crazy nonsensical lyrics (my favorite may be ‘And she’s coming after me with the butterfly net’ from “Soul Sucking Jerk”). This is just great acoustic guitar driven songwriting with a lot of goofy production thrown over it. It’s the kind of music I would like to record, but I don’t have the talent or the patience to pull it off.
Of course, nobody else has made an album that sounds like Mellow Gold either.