Shuffle Everything – Vol. 4

PJ Harvey came out on top last week with ‘Rid Of Me’ and after a week of pretty intense songs, there’s somewhat of a calmer week if you don’t count the storming ‘Starve The Beat’ by Screaming Females. Beck returns to compete with Blur for best post-breakup wallowing, it’s pretty hard to beat ‘No Distance Left To Run’ but he gives it his best shot, bless him.

Lost Cause – Beck

Sea Change is many people’s Beck album of choice and you can see most of his material since this album as affecting of what we think of Beck now – more of an acoustic singer-songwriter-type than the no-genre-slacker of the 90s. ‘Lost Cause’ is beautiful and sad and summed up in ‘I’m tired of fighting for a lost cause’. He tries to tear himself away from this person he’s broken up with, but their ‘sorry eyes’ and ‘wounds’ make it hard to ignore. I could just listen to the guitars on this track and the way they weave around each other, but the lyrics are front and centre.

Monday Will Never Be The Same – Hüsker Dü

A throwaway track from the full-to-the-brim Zen Arcade, led purely by piano in comparison to the hardcore punk that Hüsker Dü are famous for. In the context of the album I might have been kinder, but when you get thrown a bunch of interlude tracks you’ve got to remember how important the album format is, and how tracks like this can be welcome relief from full-on bands like this. I checked and ‘Newest Industry’ comes before this so maybe it was a good idea to throw in a piano interlude before getting into ‘Whatever’, which for the record is incredible.

Starve The Beat (Live) – Screaming Females

Live At The Hideout is one of my favourite live albums and is just as good as any of Screaming Females’ albums and has the added benefit of compiling some of their greatest songs prior to Rose Mountain together. It’s tragic that Screaming Females still don’t get as much credit as they’re due, seeing as they’re one of the tightest punk rock bands around. They have the bonus of having Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, who works some guitar magic and screams like nobody’s business. The funny thing is how indebted to classic rock it is – listen to those guitar solos – but is imbued with DIY punk that everyone can get behind. Let’s applaud for King Mike for a second, and now let’s move on.

The Hook – Stephen Malkmus

On a completely random note, I found a CD single of ‘Jenny And the Ess Dog’ in my small town charity shop once, and I really wanted to know who in my town was in possession of Stephen Malkmus CD singles. Anyway, this is from the better Malkmus solo album, where he gets to play rock ‘n’ roll without having to attach the Pavement name and has plenty of fun with it. It’s a lovely, catchy pop song if you can ignore the lyrics about Turkish pirates and excruciating forms of torture. Then again, what do you expect from Stephen Malkmus? It’s the same guy that wrote that the Smashing Pumpkins have no function.

Gold Star For Robot Boy – Guided By Voices

still can’t get into Guided By Voices. I just couldn’t get around how short the songs were, and I’m not exactly sure why I have that problem. ‘Gold Star For Robot Boy’ sounds influential, you can hear a million indie rock bands in that song, in the middle of hyper-accessible pop-rock and horrendously lo-fi production. It’s surprising that Guided By Voices never got bigger than they did, especially in the healthy climate of the 90s they excelled in. Talking about gold stars is a fitting theme for Robert Pollard, he was a teacher at an elementary school at the same time as being a musical cult hero. Imagine all those kids telling people years later they got taught by Guided By Voices. I imagine the lessons would be interesting.

Best Of The Week?

‘Starve The Beat’s live rendition is staggering; six minutes of pure unfiltered punk that sings the praises of technical ability as well as a DIY ethic. The mixing is particularly good for a live performance, boosting those guitars way up and letting Marissa Paternoster go all out. The best rock band around?

Track Review – Wow / Beck

Wow is the expression you could use to describe any of Beck’s massive left-turns in his career. It also happens to be the title of his new song, a trendy hip-pop song with the kind of high pitched backing vocals, airhorn-like synths and brittle drums that’s filling the charts right now. It’s also surprising to see Beck take this direction after his sombre, acoustic last album Morning Phase, which was followed by the psychedelic and excellent single ‘Dreams’. By this point, ‘Wow’, shouldn’t be a surprise, and with Beck’s history of rapping it shouldn’t be confusing to see him try this style, but it is kind of jarring, and, dare we say it, sounds like Beck genre-hopping for the sake of genre-hopping.

Pop isn’t anything unusual for Beck, it’s just that in the past he has retained some of those idiosyncrasies that made him a little bit quirkier and ahead of the pack. It could mean ‘Dreams’, which picked up Tame Impala’s recent stretch for pop, and ran with it. There’s no life in ‘Wow’, even if it can perfectly show how Beck can imitate the pop of the moment. The lyrics, where Beck does manage to work in some of his weird eccentricities, there’s sore thumbs like ‘Now we’re pissin in the wind cause it’s so pine fresh’ and the infuriatingly catchy chorus of ‘Wow! It’s like right now’. In that aspect, Beck has crafted a very modern pop song which might have some legs on the radio.

Track Review – Dreams / Beck

Last year’s Morning Phase was a low key release for Beck that ended up – controversially – scooping a grammy. It was a sleepy album full of mumbled vocals and twinkling guitars, however those looking for the same folk won’t find it on ‘Dreams’. ‘Dreams’ harks back to the pop-targeting Beck of the 90s, incorporating Beck’s ever-evolving hybrid genres that range from Mark Ronson-esque guitar-pop, Tame Impala psychedelia and rock. It actually works very well, though it’s hardly surprising considering how well Beck has done in the past to merge genre so fluidly. The main body of the song is built on peppy pop, with a catchy chorus of ‘Nothing gonna get me in my world’ and a theme of escapism through dreams.

‘Dreams’ contains some weird, out-there lyrics typical of Beck. There are some average lines like ‘Dreams / She’s making me high’ but previous to that there’s ‘Get a dog and pony for judgement day’ and ‘Streets are running on the brink’. Despite the catchy, surface-layer pop, there’s undoubtedly a doubt and paranoia bubbling beneath the surface, climaxing with ‘Stop fucking with my dreams’. The song suddenly changes around the 3 minute mark, with a furious guitar followed by a ton of effects lathered on top of the instrumentation and Beck’s vocals, turning the song into a trippy nightmare. ‘Dreams’ signals that Beck refuses to rest on his laurels and if this is anything to go by, the next album could be damn well anything.