By Kate Andrew

Okay, I should begin by admitting that I really loved the soporific, heartbroken country of Beck’s last album Seac Change. But the vast majority of his fans didn’t, so it’s no surprise that Guero sees our hero retreading some pretty safe old ground. It recalls many past glories, most obviously the sleaze-funk of Midnite Vultures and the stoner surrealism of Mellow Gold, without messing too much with the winning formulas.

The album’s stand-out tracks are truly brilliant – Hell Yes is an electro party stomper that sounds like robots having kinky sex, and Rental Car takes a joyous drive through sixties psychedelia via the prettiest singalong chorus this side of Brian Wilson. Much has been made of the return of the Dust Brothers, and Guero is indeed a triumph for the producers, who blend the key flavours – primitive bluesy sounds, Mexican hip hop and cutting edge electronica – with apparent ease.

But great production does not a classic album make, and half the tracks here sound like Beck-by-numbers. Interestingly, on his website there is a random lyric generator, which pumps out unending streams of surreal nonsense, and one can’t help wondering whether the singer has turned to this in moments of writers block. The fact that the last track is called Emergency Exit is telling – there’s a fair bit of filler here, and one gets a sense that Beck was probably pleased to get the writing and recording over with.

That said, even at his laziest, Beck is still more inventive and interesting than most of his contemporaries, and overall Guero makes for a fairly enjoyable listen. But Beck should be aiming for so much more than that. Hopefully next time round he’ll stop resting on his laurels and go back to surprising and delighting us.
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