Music Review: ?Modern Guilt? by Beck

“Beck” is an American indie/alternative artist from Los Angeles, California. Although born as Bek David Campbell, he is known as Beck or Beck Hansen on stage. Beck is mainly into making indie and alternative music which covers folk rock, hip-hop, electronic, rock and even blues. Beck is also known for being a multi-instrumentalist where he plays guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, harmonica, percussion, banjo, synthesizers and other instruments.

Modern Guilt dives in with folky opener “Orphans”. It has a distant bass sound in the beginning. Once the guitar enters and Beck voices out, the track just hits the jackpot like that. It produces a country-like atmosphere to it, folk and country rock altogether. Indie artist Cat Power also known as Chan Marshall is also featured here to lend her vocals to Beck. In the bridge, the additional flute is a thing to watch out for. Very well-harmonized vocals on Orphans towards the end. Very tempting opener that will haunt especially the adults. 😉

“Gamma Ray” is a faster tempo track and i wouldn’t mind if i’ve been hit by Gamma Ray. The music itself speaks for itself. The vocals of Beck just add extra pump and weight to the whole song. The bass and drums keep re-looping themselves until they hit a climax further down into the track. In the verse, the music seems to be taking a break and slowly build itself for a breakthrough in the coming chorus. Every phrase that Beck sings is followed by gospel-like backing vocals. I just love the music on Gamma Ray, infectiously groovy! 😀

“Chemtrails” is a track that suddenly slows down Modern Guilt’s momentum. Listening to Chemtrails revokes your imagination, you would like you’re dreaming. The piano and the synthesizers just create a soundscape that is so unreal, you be dreaming away listening to Chemtrails. Even Beck’s vocals on Chemtrails blends in very well with the music. Full of howls and moans to greatly enhance the atmosphere of Chemtrails. The remaining one minute instrumental, you would enjoy the beautiful violin that plays on just before the track ends and fades into silence. :-) What an experience!

“Modern Guilt” has a steady drum beats once it enters. Beck moans through each phrase with his vocals. Combined with the music, Beck is twisting his vocals here and there to accustom himself to Modern Guilt. Entering the chorus, the guitar just comes plucking itself in and it’s really good, Beck just goes on with, “Modern guilt, i’m stranded with nothing… Modern guilt, I’m under lock and key…” In the bridge, the piano and violin speak for themselves. Beck just adds in some vocal effects to complement the music. Until the end, the whole track seems to be saving the best for last. It’s very beautiful and i find myself swaying away listening to it. 😀

The bass in the beginning of “Youthless” really revs me up. It’s very tight and fast the way the bass is being played on Youthless. Even Beck sings as if he’s rapping softly at between intervals. When it comes to the chorus, Beck just sings at a slightly higher pitch that seems to be echoing itself through the chorus, “And they’re helpless and forgetting in the background holding nothing, and they’re youthless and pretending with their bare hands holding nothing…” The synthesizers also seems to be having fun from here onwards, coming in and out, creating some cute sounds at intervals that delight us. Towards the end, cello enters and give some extra support to the bass. Very smartly composed music, very tight! 😉

“Walls” already surprises me in the beginning. The violin-like sound created by synthesizers is really the core music on Walls. Beck just sings on as the music goes on like that. Approaching the chorus, there’s a lady-like sound in the background, sometime i would think that it’s Alvin from The Chipmunks which is making those funny sounds. Cat Power is again featured on this track in the chorus, where she would join Beck, “Hey what are you gonna do, when those walls are falling down, falling down on you…” The music on Walls just ends almost the way it started. Weirdly good! :-)

“Replica” is fast and delicate simultaneously. The beats on Replica are tight and light. Due to a distant sound in the music, it makes the whole track sort of delicate. Delicate enough you would also hear Beck singing in a distant voice. Piano can also be heard in this track as Beck sings. Nearing the end, the violin only comes in and the whole track turns into an instrumental adventure before fading itself to night. 😉

“Soul Of A Man” sounds like a rock track for the army. The bass line just follow every lyrics that Beck sings, like a chick following its mother. Handclaps and guitar riffing can also be heard as Beck sings through the track. When the chorus comes, the whole track seems to be floating in mid-air and Beck goes, “Cold was the storm, that covered the night…” Soul Of A Man is at times like a folk rock track that would definitely be appeal to the old ages. It’s not loud, but its groovy beat will get onto you quietly. :-)

“Profanity Prayers” is an upbeat track with infectious drum beats and smart vocals that just know how to enter and exit. Beck can be heard singing in a speedy voice in the verse. In the chorus, he just raises his pitch and let go of his vocals that echo back to him, “Who’s gonna answer, profanity prayers, who’s gonna answer, these profanity prayers…” I also like the guitar that enters in the chorus, it has this special rhythm with it. When Beck is not singing, the music just plays itself out. And i have to say, it’s really good! 😀

Beck ends Modern Guilt with slow-driving “Volcano”. Beck’s voice on this track gives a hint that he might be tired from all the singing that he has done on Modern Guilt. Therefore he’s taking it slow with Volcano. When it comes to the first chorus, you would hear some backing vocals helping Beck out when he goes, “I don’t know what I’ve seen, was it all an illusion? Or a mirage gone bad? I’m tired of evil, and all that it feeds, but I don’t know…” With the backing vocals, it sounds really great as it adds the definitive weight to Volcano and Beck’s voice. Volcano is slow but it’s able to gulp you down slowly after listening to it a few times. Once you get the hook of it, you would find it hard to drop it. Sometimes it’s just beautiful! 😉

Darren Tan

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