Trying To Get To You

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Random Thoughts About Beck On The Subway Home

I have about 12,000 songs on my iPod, which I carry around almost always. If I don’t have it on me, I inevitably think of some song that I need to hear right that second! It sounds kind of childish, but I’m grateful have something to feel childish about. Oftentimes, I’ll put my iPod on shuffle and I will rotate a lot of songs in and out, so my iPod ends up acting as a radio station. And despite the fact that I own all the songs on my iPod, I usually end up discovering something that I haven’t really paid attention to before, or, I rediscover something that I haven’t listened to or paid attention to in years.

Tonight I was on the F train on my way home, and Beck’s “New Pollution” from Odelay (1996) came on. I was almost surprised at how little I enjoyed listening to it, and I realized that while I was an Odelay (and Beck) fan back in the day, I tried to convince myself that it was great because, well, everyone said it was, and in 1996, there didn’t seem to be that many other options for interesting commercial rock (and rock based) music. I kept trying to convince myself of his greatness until 2002’s Sea Change, and then I felt comfortable enough with telling people that I thought it was dreadful.

I think Beck is probably a really brilliant guy, but in my view, he’s a testament to the limits of the post-modern ironic artist. Yes, he’s clever and inventive - mixing and matching different genres and textures. Bricolage, the academics call it – the self-conscious use of varied materials to create a seamless whole. But if he stands for anything other than pastiche (which is always fashionable), I have no idea what it is. I’m a sucker for passion with intelligence and a sense of humor, and in post-modern land, pure unadulterated passion without some mask of irony is anathema. I’ve seen Beck several times and each time was more forgettable than the last – sometimes he played at being a showman, sometimes he played at being a sensitive singer songwriter. But it all felt like play, and almost none of it ever resonated with me (with the exception of when he played “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” at Jones Beach in ’97). Given what was said of him back in the day, I was almost stunned at how much of a non-entity he seems to be today.

Funny what thoughts a song coming up on shuffle on your iPod can bring up on a train ride home. I just took Beck off of my iPod, with the exception of "Lord Only Knows."

1 comment:

David said...

I think the shuffle function it the best divination system since the I-ching.