The chilled autumn air is upon us, the days are getting shorter with the pitch black night setting in. This is very time that we need the gutsy, uplifting stomp of Beck’s latest album Colors. If Colors was a person, it would be a child left alone to rampage in a sweet shop, devouring sticky, fizzy blue raspberry delights, running amok on E numbers.
Gone is the introspective Beck Hansen, as witnessed on 2014’s Morning Phase, an almost sequel to Sea Change. The diversity of Beck’s output has always enabled him to stand out from the pack. It is rare to find an artist who is as at home playing stripped back dust bowl inspired blues, as he is a song with massive hip-hop beats. Colors is a rebirth then, of sorts. Colors harks back to Midnite Vultures Beck, E-Pro Beck and Odelay.
Opening (and title) track Colors, builds around an exciting hook, it’s all loop pedals and strong beats. ‘I see you, I need you, every day’ sings Beck, ‘found my way through the lost years’. It bursts into life and announces Beck’s return to the danceable, funky troubadour we haven’t seen for quite a few years.
Seventh Heaven, positively glistens. It is a stand out moment because not only is it one of the most upbeat songs on the album, it could be classed as Beck’s most unashamedly ‘pop’ moment. Yes, you read that right, Beck has actually written what is best described as a delicious, if unexpected, pop song. Lyrically, Seventh Heaven has a certain sheen that hasn’t been witnessed before. The confessions are straightforward and heart on your sleeve honest. ‘someday there might be something better. You can change your mind but you can’t forget her’. The best sing-a-long melodrama since Top of The Pops ceased to broadcast.
Just as you think you know the direction Colors is going in, this chameleon-like album throws another curve ball. I’m So Free, begins with a piano and then it twists with a funky drive of fuzzed guitars, ‘I see the silhouette of everything I ever knew, turning into voodoo, I’m so free now’. Lyrically, it’s typically Beck. Maybe not the off the wall genius of Mellow Gold, but all the off kilter thought patterns that have peppered Beck’s career are still evident. There are many bursts of fresh sounds that on first listen appear a little too mainstream. Up All Night and No Distraction, for example, could have easily been part of his lost collaboration with Pharrell Williams.
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Colors had been in the works for, as Beck recently admitted in several interviews, ‘several years’ and this is notable by the release date of lead single Dreams, being in 2015. It sounds current, packed with samples and glitches. In contrast Wow nods to the emo rap of artists such as Yung Lean. Proving once again that Beck is an artist like no other, in his ability to shape shift, it’s almost as though every genre of music is present.
If there are any quieter moments, then the penultimate song, the self-produced, Fix Me, offers the gentle reflective mood that Beck appears to have been exploring of late. It is loving and hopeful, in both lyrics and melody. ‘I want you’ sings Beck, ‘I’m set free’.
It’s this freedom that as an artist Beck has built his career on and Colors proves he’s alive and kicking with it. He may not have two turn tables and a microphone but he’s certainly not lost the edge.
Colors is out now via Capitol. The full track-listing for ‘Colors’ is as follows…
2. “7th Heaven”
3. “I’m So Free”
4. “Dear Life”
5. “No Distraction”
8. “Up All Night”
9. “Square One”
10. “Fix Me”