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Modern Guilt | DGC
By ZETH LUNDY  |  July 15, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
Ever since his 2002 confessional, Sea Change, Beck’s music has been less absurd and more obliquely melancholic, the sound of pop art confronting itself. On Modern Guilt, his eighth major-label record, Beck and co-producer Danger Mouse craft a subversive summer album that pits narratives of spiritual and existential longing against noise-encrusted beats and dusty old-pop architecture. It’s music for summer nights of muggy confusion and post-sunset soul searching, and when Beck takes the mic, he rocks some straight-up Shiva shit: “To be loved or destroyed/From a void to a grain of sand in your hand.” Beck and Danger Mouse — whose ubiquity is quickly turning him into the alt-Timbaland — handle most of the album’s instrumentation, from the spy guitar that drives “Gamma Ray” to the infectious Doors-ian saloon hop of the title track. Meanwhile, “Chemtrails,” the only song with a live band, salvages the wreck of late-’60s head-psych, all waterlogged and reanimated, with a hazy shade of Pink Floyd pomp. Beck’s falsetto goes glassy-eyed under the spell of Joey Waronker’s drums and Jason Falkner’s bass — torrential reckonings of retro allusion. Modern Guilt is a hot thing of indefinite course, and perhaps, as Beck sings in “Volcano,” an attempt to “make it back into the womb of the world” — not so much to beat the heat, but to become one with it.
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