Beck – Mellow Gold DGC DGCD-24634 (1994)
I can see why people love this, and love Beck. But I don’t love this album. From my first listen I found it mediocre, and 20 years on it doesn’t particularly impress me. There are two good songs: “Loser” and “Beercan”. In fact, “Loser” is great. The rest? Well, you can certainly look at this as an achievement in eclecticism. Immediately following the rock/hip-hop hybrid that is the opener “Loser,” Beck turns to a sort of rudimentary Bob Dylan parody in “Pay No Mind (Snoozer)”. Elsewhere, he’s channeling The Beastie Boys. And he hits other points in between. The eclecticism is sort of amusing. But Beck isn’t a very strong lyricist at this stage. But that isn’t why this album was popular. Aside from the hit “Loser,” this manages to make good use of the studio to make weak songs sound a hell of a lot more interesting than they should. But also this album was something of a signifier of a larger trend when the “big boys” at major labels were willing to acknowledge and promote music that was a lot more juvenile than what they normally promoted. Make no mistake, Beck was quite juvenile in ’94. This was the same era that produced movies like Clerks (1994), catering to kinda immature teenagers who didn’t usually see a whole lot of widely available (read: non-underground) entertainment directed toward them. Beck was able to ride that wave, and he is sort of a poster child for that phenomenon of the “alternative rock” era, the dopier, funnier counterpart to the serious “artiste” figures like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.