Beck: Morning Phase Review (3 Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are three reactions, three impressions, three takes on Morning Phase by Beck.
Six years is always a pretty long time to wait for anything new from Beck. Then again, not everyone can release material like Beck can. Since the Danger Mouse helmed Modern Guilt, an album which was more carrying along in the upbeat series of releases. However, on Modern Guilt, gone is the longtime affiliation with the DGC Records staple for Capitol Records, and on this album, there’s a lot more of a resonance and similarity to Mutations and Sea Change, known for more slowing things down than keeping them feverishly upbeat and catchy. Take for example “Morning,” which kicks things off as more a slow cooker, but regardless, there are still jams that have their moments like “Heart is a Drum,” and “Blue Moon,” both of which are nice little upbeat shifts to keep things still on the melodically sound and mellow footing. While it still doesn’t carry the same emotional shift as either Mutations or the heartbreaking Sea Change, it still manages to keep things airy and bright, which is never a bad thing.
Atom Robinson (@atomrobinson)
I used to think Beck was critically unassailable. He’s a visionary. He’s prolific enough to keep you on the edge of your seat but controlled enough that you don’t think “this dude needs an editor.” Over the last twenty years, the dude’s crafted a catalog that’s been super solid.
I guess it’s fair to say that every 20 years or so, Beck’s allowed to throw out a clunker of a record. Morning Phase isn’t a terrible album – by the standards applied to nearly any other artist, it’s a success – but through its plodding 13 tracks, it just never lifts beyond “meh.”
Every song has a mid-tempo, atmospheric, meandering vibe to it. It’s territory Beck’s mined before, to much greater effect, on 2003’s Sea Change. Some tracks, like “Heart is A Drum” and “Say Goodbye” get close to the genius of that album, but overall, Morning Phase misses the spark and depth of Sea Change.
“Blackbird Chain” thumps along like an attempt at a deconstructed pop song, but feels clunky and awkward. “Country Down” aims to sound like The Band, but lands squarely in Dawes territory.
Morning Phase is an album that desperately wants to draw you in and hold you close. By the time you get to closing guitar solo of “Waking Light,” though, you wonder if you haven’t listened to the same song 13 times in a row.
My initial review of Morning Phase was going to be simply “snooze fest”. But it’s more than that. Morning Phase is so unbelievably boring and soulless that it made me go back and reevaluate if I even liked Beck in the first place like I thought I have all these years. Turns out I don’t really. Sure there’s some teenage nostalgia behind Mellow Gold and Odelay and even One Foot In The Grave, but turns out that’s really it. Morning Phase sounds like Beck’s attempt to make a classic 70s style record but in that respect turns in something that sonically sounds great but each song just sort of plods along in a tuneless droning sort of way with no energy or hooks to back anything up. There are a few points that the record almost starts to pick up like “Blue Moon” but soon the record drops right back in to that same slow plod as the rest. So thank you Beck for making me realize that I never have to break out Mutations again and try and figure out what it is I really liked about it.
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