Beck - Colors

by James Gerard Rating:5 Release Date:2017-10-13
Beck - Colors
Beck - Colors

With a career full of sonic left-turns and artistic rebirths, Beck Hansen has managed on more than one occasion to transform his quirky, sonically eccentric records into the ‘flavor of the day’.  And despite his perceived ‘overnight’ success (via the slacker-rock anthem “Loser”), the truth is that it was Beck’s continued adherence to the indie-artist’s playbook that would ultimately lead him to the critical acclaim and sustained chart presence that he has enjoyed throughout his career.

On the heels of the Grammy-winning Morning Phase (the long-anticipated follow-up to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change), Beck has decided yet again to shed any and all expectations in favor of following his ever-elusive muse.  And so what does one follow up a lushly-orchestrated, universally-lauded album with?  Well, if you're Beck then you make a straight-up dance record.

Beginning with 2015’s one-off hit “Dreams”, Beck’s collaboration with mega-producer Greg Kurstin eventually became an ongoing partnership that would find the artist working for the better part of two years to chase down the sound that would finally inspire him.  To hear Beck tell it, month after month of ‘trial and error’ eventually led to an artistic epiphany of sorts resulting in his latest release, Colors.

While Beck has made previous forays into the fringes of rock and pop (with the dance-floor sleaze of Midnight Vultures and the genre-bending tour-de-force that is Odelay serving as notable highpoints), Colors is by far the most polished and purposefully accessible album of his career. 

The formula for Colors is firmly established from the get-go, with the hook-laden album-opening title track and the built-for-a-car-commercial gloss of “Seventh Heaven” remaining tethered at all times to their respective synthesized pulses. The huge success of “Dreams” does not go unnoticed either, as the song receives a double-billing here, getting a remix makeover that places it more in line with the rest of the material while the original (and superior) radio cut is tagged on to the end of the record as well.

But while floor-ready singles are par for the course when it comes to the realm of all-things pop music, it’s when Colors deviates from this formula (with the amped up “I’m So Free”, the Police-esque “No Distraction” and the absolutely brilliant “Dear Life”) that it truly shines its brightest.

Unfortunately, those moments are somewhat few and far between as the album has its fair share of missteps as well: the head-scratchingly derivative “Wow” and the lackluster Dreams-retread “Up All Night” are notable low points.  It’s when Beck leans hard on his quirky-melodic-sensibilities (the upbeat R&B-infused “Square One” is a second-half highlight) that glimpses of what could have been truly come into focus. 

Beck has cited 80’s synth-pop and new-wave as sonic touchstones of sorts for Colors, a fact that when taken into account helps bring the haplessly eclectic nature of the album into focus.  With that being said, Colors is perhaps the first Beck release that feels belabored and calculated; conceivably by design but new and unfamiliar territory for the intrepid artist nonetheless. 

And if the intention this time around was to make an uncompromising ‘Pop’ album, then for better or worse Beck has succeeded at doing just that as Colors clearly feels like an effort geared less towards his longtime fans and more towards the potential ‘everyone else’. 

To his credit, Beck has always managed to indulge his artistic eccentricities in a way that kept his music accessible to his ever-growing fanbase; whether or not Colors results in an artistic rebirth or is simply another detour along the way is probably now tethered to just how much that ‘everyone else’ cares to listen.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars