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Beck: White Dude with Penchant for Being Cool

White Dude with penchant for being cool seeking new audience.
Contact Beck Hansen. Los Angeles, California.

I've been a fan of Beck's since I was riding around with my friend (KPRI afternoon show host Bob) a few years back. He popped in a CD. "What do you think of this?" he asked.

It was a little bit jazzy, moving between diminished chords and accented rhythmically by a small army of percussion instruments. There was even some bossa-nova in the mix. Still, it was tasty though I wasn't quite sure what to think of it. It reminded me of some Django Reinhardt that I'd listened to in college. Up to this moment, the closest I'd come to Beck was playing "Loser" as a dedication to Ryan Leaf (former quarterback of the San Diego Chargers- worst sports deal of all-time).

Bob told me the deep, almost monotone voice was Beck. I was hooked.

The more I studied this guy, the more I was impressed. His classical music background notwithstanding, he was educated, erudite. Possessed of a dry sense of humor, this album, "Tropicalia", was a bold adventure.

I wondered who Beck reminded me of and it hit me. Todd Rundgren. Todd has the same kind a smarts and recording sense. He and Beck are totally different in so many ways but both can be so smart they can lose their audiences. Each seems challenged by the sheer drive to explore sound and music to see where it goes. And, it's just a guess but each could probably write hit songs all day long if that was their goal. But, good thing for us, they don't.

Beck and I spoke a few weeks ago about his new album "Guero". White dude with blonde hair does album with Spanish slang title. Rolling Stone and most of the other music magazines love the album. Annoyingly they keep saying that "Beck is Back." I didn't realize that he went away. No, he hasn't tried to do "Odelay" over and over again. He's kind of kept on doing what he wants musically.

"I don't read what people write about me," he confessed. "I prefer to get lost in my music in the studio. I don't really have the time to pay attention to reviews or critics." Has he reinvented himself? "I'm just doing what I do."

Many of the critics are saying this is Beck revisiting his past success. All of his albums since "Odelay" have been compared to "Odelay". That's like being compared to the "straight A" big brother when you go to the same high school. It's unfair but expected.

When it comes to music, I've noticed that we Americans ( I can't really speak for any other nationality) want more of the same. Then, after we get it, we ask "Why can't these bastards write anything new?"

Kick'em when their up… kick'em when their down. It's a terrible place to be as a musician. (It just might explain why the Eagles have been recording a new record since 2001. Can you imagine the artistic pressure those guys are under?) They'll deny it of course because that's what artists do.

Occasionally, you'll get raw honesty. I remember when Dave Matthews was over-due for an album. My friend Bob was interviewing Dave backstage at a concert and said "Dave, we really can't wait for the new album." Dave looked at Bob point-blank and said "What if it sucks, Bob?"

For Beck fans, the good news is this album is fun to listen to and equally fun the third or fourth time. "Odelay" fans will like it, (as it's produced with the Dust Brothers and their sprinkling is liberal.) And Beck's record label will like it. It's selling lots of optical-grade polycarbonate.

Word to Beck: Thanks for the phone call bro. I like your album. It doesn't suck.

Now make another one.