Music

Beck: Guerolito

Zeth Lundy

Rock's resident chameleon has his latest album remixed by the likes of Air, Diplo, Boards of Canada, and the Beastie Boys' Adrock.


Beck

Guerolito

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2005-12-13
UK Release Date: 2005-12-19
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Before we assess the reinterpretations, let's revisit the source:

Guero, Beck's eighth studio record in 11 years, was largely misunderstood and misrepresented upon its release earlier this year. It was pigeonholed as an amalgam of his past releases, essentially "summing up" his genre-bending streak of musical identity crises (an understandably premature reaction to somehow define its place in our organizationally obsessed minds). It was insulted as a kinder, gentler, less interesting "Version 2.0" of Beck's 1996 breakthrough album Odelay (when, in fact, Guero is a darker, denser, and infinitely more fascinating version of Odelay, perhaps even so much that it replaces its predecessor with renewed relevance). Worst of all, Guero was passed over as a record of little importance, as if its creator had shed the last of his shape-shifting skins and was frantically pawing through the sun-stained carcasses to glean some recycled inspiration.

If these predetermined truths about Guero are finally — via hindsight or a less prejudiced examination — exposed as falsehoods, then how can we expect to identify it? Perhaps a complicated definition is best, one as convoluted and eclectic as the record itself: A blues record for the space age that drops its scrapyard worries like overheated buckshot, populated by violent subversions ("Girl") and recognitions of mortality ("Earthquake Weather"), wrapped up all-too-snugly in pop culture quilts. In other words, it's a mutable work that resounds in pasts and futures. And you can dance to it.

So then:

Let's splinter Guero's tenable demarcations even further by absorbing Guerolito. Guerolito's superficial definition: a track-by-track remix of Guero, perpetrated by a wily assortment of remixers and reassembly types. By transferring the source material's original concepts into new contexts (some fascinating, others only marginally successful), Guerolito offers now-familiar songs at new angles and among sundry accompaniment. It also boasts the inclusion of "Clap Hands" (one of three tracks here originally available on the Guero deluxe edition), a panting groove tempest that treats infectiousness like it's an illegal substance worth indulging in.

The most admirable remixes are those that are willing to take risks and challenge the original tracks. "Ghost Life", Homelife's remix of "E-Pro", sucks out the blues riffage, replacing it with horns, banjo, and trembling strings. When the track's definable riff returns near the end (along with the "na na na" chorus), it's as an afterthought — what had originally served as the track's hallmark is usurped by suitors. Octet's remix of "Girl" amps up the song's menace with an insistent drum pattern and minor key piano. The original's sinister bubblegum tension is undercut until, in a cut-and-paste train wreck, vocal takes haphazardly flay and flounder. Boards of Canada's "Broken Drum" and Air's "Missing" (renamed "Heaven Hammer" here) reveal a deep sadness through lush, cinematic grandiosities. And for unabashed fun, "Ghettochip Malfunction", 8-Bit's ass-shaking mechanization of "Hell Yes", is a downright volatile synthetic rhythm track, the one remix here that actually gives the original a run for its money.

Guerolito fails to impress when a remix doesn't exactly communicate something new about its chosen song. Diplo's version of "Go It Alone" (titled "Wish Coin") distills its blues into reggae accents, but it's really just a minimalist facsimile. Islands' "Que Onda Guero" begins with intrigue and promise (a wheezing chord progression ghostly appears where one was not before), but readily dissolves into a rambling surplus of creative indecision. Both Adrock's "Shake Shake Tambourine" ("Black Tambourine") and Mario C's "Terremoto Tempo" ("Earthquake Weather") are cramped by close-range percussive patterns, rendering the emotional canvases of the originals inconsequential. More plainly put, roughly half of the remixes on Guerolito fail to transcend expectations; that is, they operate as most remixes do.

Perhaps Guerolito isn't the best place to reevaluate and/or appreciate the finer points of Guero, but then, it's not purported to be. Think of Guerolito as an addendum or an after-dinner mint — the worthwhile offerings it affords will be of most use to the listener who enjoyed the main course.

6

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image