EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been sitting in my pile of drafts for a while, life has just been so crazy I hadn’t had a chance to publish it yet. I will be back to posting regularly very soon, however.
It’s not Sea Change, it’s not Odelay, it’s not Modern Guilt… Nope. Guero is my favorite Beck album. Not a common choice, I suppose, but the blend of alternative, hip-hop, rock, electronica, all melded with a smooth Latin style just makes this one release so unique, I can’t help but love it. To be honest, I like just about every song on here and will happily listen to it all the way through. It’s also a well-structured album. It may not really feel that way, but the order in which the songs are placed is actually quite important. The general rule being to hit them hard, mellow things out, have a big bombastic last quarter, then the final track is typically a “cool-down”. The final outro being softer… Not in Guero.
Kicking things off, Rental Car has a lot going for it… until the bridge. Not to say it’s a bad song, with its solid rock riff, a great vocal melody for the chorus, and the funny little 60’s acid rock organ breakdowns, but that “la la la” vocal bridge could be removed entirely and it would only improve the song. It’s just so odd and out-of-place, securing it safely on the “what were they thinking?” scale. If it weren’t for
Hell Yes is a return to form for Beck, for better or worse. I really like the beat, the overarching rhythm, and the very simple hip-hop chorus. Featuring an almost Beastie Boys sound (though not nearly as energetic or aggressive), it does well to give Beck fans something of the 90’s with a modern twist, but it is certainly lesser than many of his songs since Mellow Gold, as he evolved more as an artist, this seemed to be an attempt at a connection to his roots but came off as more of a throwback track to his own work, rendering it oddly anacrhonistic.
Minimalist describes Emergency Exit well. It has a similar groove to some of the other bluesy tracks on Guero, but it also features a calmer tone. The Western guitar track and melody of the song gives it an almost country sound at times but it still maintains distinctly-Beck.
Go It Alone
Go It Alone sounds very mid-2000’s. Obviously inspired by the alt styling of the time, it is a fairly simple track, not doing much to set it apart from the rest of the songs on the album aside from a catchy beat, but that isn’t really a bad thing. It keeps the twang of the guitar present across the Guero and has a slick production.
Scarecrow is the first truly great song on this list. Keeping a steady beat through the song with a catchy acoustic riff, some great effects highlighting portions of the song, but it never really picks up. Like much of Guero, it keeps a pretty consistent energy from start to finish. This may seem like a bad thing at first, but I think this makes Scarecrow consistent with the style of the album.
Now for a song that sounds like it belongs in a commercial for blue jeans, Farewell Ride is a Western track that, alongside Que Onda Guero and Earthquake Weather (which appear later in the list), really solidify the slick dirty, old-school, barrio sound consistent through the album.
Possibly named for the underground indie rock band from the late-80’s to early-90’s, Black Tambourine is a smooth mix of jazz and alt-rock with a fairly simple drum-centric composition. It keeps with the tone of the majority of the album, too, using an acoustic guitar for rhythm with a dirty tone to the whole production, but it is the beat and mood that makes the song unique.
Que Onda Guero
It really isn’t a beck album without a nonsense
As the requisite slow groove, Broken Drum, soften things down just a bit leading into the last third of the album. A moody Western sound is sustained by a slide guitar and somewhat-two-step beat along with a soft piano breakdown after the chorus. Like much of the album, this song keeps things simple throughout, never building too much, but rather maintaining its simple composition.
A soulful rhythm and bluesy mood encompass Missing, Easily the best part of the song to me is the chorus’s refrain; the way the lyrics wrap into the next phrase of music has an almost “Tool” style of composition thanks to musical complexity. If you listen through this song carefully, you might realize it’s far more brilliant than it may seem on the surface.
Surprisingly, the first time I ever heard E-Pro was playing Rock Band 2. However, even among that game’s list of legendary songs, it was one of my favorites. I had been out of the “Beck loop” for a while at that point and hadn’t really heard much of his music since the
Earthquake Weather is one of the best songs of the 2000s. Yeah! I said it! Still throwing in that Latin vibe, this is a song that takes a handful of musical ideas and tosses them into a finely-crafted pop song, and that’s what this is, a pop song. This should have been a single. The “dark”-sounding verseleads seamlessly into a great upbeat chorus, and I do mean great. Beck and crew’s vocals have never sounded better (at least not until 2018’s Up All Night). It reflects the musical growth presented in Sea Change but with much more energy and style.
That was my list! It’s subjective, sure, but if you have a favorite song from Guero, or any other Beck album, please share in the comments!