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REVIEW: Beck Hyperspace

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“Everything I do, you know I don’t do right” Beck sings on ‘Uneventful Days’ from the just-out Hyperspace, and boy is that an apt description of his musical output in the past few years.  Hyperspace, like 2017’s highly forgettable Colors, is disgustingly safe and has little to distinguish it from any other collection of samey wanna-be top 40 pop radio hits other than brand name recognition. It really makes you wonder when the last time a Beck album warranted excitement. Odelay or Mellow Gold are modern classics but they came out almost a quarter century ago. Sure, he made some great music at the beginning of the 21st Century — 2005’s Guero and 2006’s The Information come to mind — but somewhere after that he transitioned from the exciting Beck we know and love to the plateaued Beck we have today. Beck’s greatest strength, his dilettantism, is also his greatest weakness — he’s a jack of all genres and master of none.

On Hyperspace, he dabbles in vaporwave, an already-dying  micro-genre known for its dreamlike atmospheres and synthetic textures. And for the most part, this experiment pans out pretty well. The instrumental tracks by Pharrell Williams, who co-produced Hyperspace, aren’t anything special or new, but they work well for what they are trying to accomplish. The problem pretty much boils down to Beck himself. He sounds sounds bored and a little out of his element.  The title track starts out pleasantly hypnotizing and spacey, but Beck’s hamfisted rapping makes the song almost unlistenable. He sounds like he’s laying on a couch in the studio groggily spitting out anything that vaguely rhymes with ‘hyperspace.’ “Die Waiting” has a Maroon 5-ish commercial sheen that sounds oily and sanitized. This clinical tone is continued without reprieve throughout the record on songs such as ‘Star’ and ‘Chemical’. The first time I heard the single “Saw Lightning,’ I thought it was the most obnoxious thing I’d ever heard, a mess of hip hop drums, twangy guitars and little electronic bleeps and bloops that tries in vain to recreate that Odelay magic. And it didn’t get any better on the second listen or the third. Although ‘Dark Places’ features a hideous synth tone that sounds almost off-key, it’s the only point of interest the track holds, the song itself being devoid of any quality. But all is more or less forgiven when the song ‘Stratosphere’ comes on, the prettiest track here that serves as a reminder of what Beck can do when at the top of his game. – CHARLIE COLAN

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