Wounded Beck's tidal wave of emotion

Review by Jack Foley

ONE thing is for sure about Beck - you can never accuse him of sounding the same. His back catalogue is as diverse as it is, at times, surprising. When he followed up 1996's cheeky Odelay with the more sombre Mutations, people were forced to sit up and take notice of a songwriter who was willing to change his style.

And if Midnite Vultures could be described as a return to the Odelay/Loser style, then Sea Change - his latest - is certain to have critics rethinking yet again. Gone are the beats, scratches and cheeky style changes; replaced instead by a sombre, more intensely personal style of songwriting.

Sea Change, Beck's seventh studio album, could be described as the artist at his most vulnerable; clearly hurting over the messy split with his fiancee, Leigh Limon, the artist has penned a collection of 12 songs that really expose the personal torment that the performer must have been going through.

Tracks such as the current single, Lost Cause, in which he laments that he is 'tired of fighting' and declares that his baby is a lost cause are truly heartfelt, but so beautifully composed that they are impossible not to like. It may be melancholy at times, but there is no denying the quality which rings through.

Lost Cause is a case in point. Composed of tender acoustic guitar strings, and including a terrific chorus, this is a really good song - and one that is just as likely to have you singing along as well, while reflecting on its meaning and how it might apply (either now, or at some point) to your own life.

Other tracks, such as Lonesome Tears, Guess I'm Doing Fine and Already Dead, speak for themselves, while providing yet more insight into the singer's fragile state of mind at the time of writing, with lines such as 'These days I barely get by/I don't even try'.

Indeed, such is the emotional intensity on display throughout the album, that Rolling Stone, in a five-star review, compared Sea Change to Bob Dylan's 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks, which recounted a ruined marriage, while Face magazine wrote an open letter to him, asking if everything was okay.

Needless to say, this is not a Beck album to get out at parties... rather it is the type to play the next day; when the head's hurting, the sofa provides a comfortable refuge from the rigours of facing a headache, and you just want to sit down and listen to something relaxing (believe me, I've tried it!!!).

Not everything works, of course, and there are times when the album feels a little too sorry; yet this is a mature and accomplished collection of tracks, all which are acoustic, folk ballads. If you like the style of Lost Cause, then you are sure to dig tracks such as The Golden Age, which gets the album off to a fine start, Already Dead and the slightly more upbeat Sunday Sun, which occasionally feels like something Coldplay might pen.

Indeed, with Sunday Sun, Beck's voice sounds awesome, particularly during its sweeping chorus, while the use of piano, chilled beats and guitars work terrifically well. This is, without doubt, one of the strongest tracks on the album.

Sea Change may mark Beck at his most wounded and joyless, but it remains an essential album for any fan; it is undeniably powerful, completely addictive and a bold statement of personal feeling. To ignore it would be remiss; to put off buying it, quite simply, missing out.

Track listings:

1. The Golden Age
2. Paper Tiger
3. Guess I'm Doing Fine
4. Lonesome Tears
5. Lost Cause
6. End Of The Day
7. It's All In Your Mind
8. Round The Bend
9. Already Dead
10. Sunday Sun
11. Little One
12. Side Of The Road