Sep 16, 2009

Beck. The Record Club. The Velvet Underground & Nico.

You can't go too wrong with the Velvet Underground, and Beck manages about what you'd expect for an off the cuff covers album. It's neither awful nor a revelatory reimagining by the guy who brought you Odelay and Midnite Vultures. Beck's kind of been spinning his wheels since those albums anyway, and thankfully he doesn't treat this as Sea Change 2.0, either.

My girlfriend has always felt "Sunday Morning" was one of the most depressing songs ever written—the innocently sleepy music belies the paranoid, fatalistic lyrics (It's just the wasted years so close behind / Watch out, the world's behind you). Beck keeps it appropriately dreamy, but loses the menace. I do like the addition of the female backing vocals. "I'm Waiting for the Man" gets a ramshackle rhythm that mostly works, but "Femme Fatale" is ruined by terrible drumming. "Venus in Furs" sounds like Radiohead puked on it, and that puke recorded the electronic effects splattered all over the track. On "Run Run Run", they just go ahead and Beck-ify it and it works wonderfully. Where the original was a great, tense guitar rave-up, here they use bleepy keyboards and programmed drums to replicate the train-track rhythms and turn it into something Mum might have pulled off in their early days. "All Tomorrow's Parties" gets a similarly burbling electro-pop treatment. "Heroin" is frankly just awful, but I'm including an alternate acoustic version that Beck put up after the initial "release" that works so much better. "There She Goes Again" suffers from rather random instrumentation, while "I'll Be Your Mirror" sounds the most like its source material. I really like the way they turn "Black Angel's Death Song" into a Dylan-esque folk anthem, and "European Son" gets similarly stripped down.

Altogether a so-so effort, but the good parts are really good and—other than "Heroin"—nothing's really all that bad. Worth a try.

VU & N

Official Beck website

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