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Beck - Colors (Album Review)

Monday, 23 October 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Eliot Lee Hazel

For Beck’s 13th album, the Californian singer-songwriter has eschewed the critically lauded musical introversion of his previous two records in favour of outright pop. The results are inconsistent, but when they deliver, they do so with an explosion of joyous swagger; all swinging grooves, smashy snares and production flare.

Dreams, which was first debuted in 2015 as the title track to football video game FIFA ‘16, is a spectacular pop single, pairing scratchy yet funky riffing with majestical layered hooks. The lyrics, meanwhile, are engaging and glorious in their simplicity: “Dreams, dreams, dreams, she is makin’ me high, she is makin’ me high. Dreams, dreams dreams, all day and all night, I wanna get me free!”

The record’s best moments, though, can be found on the title track, which has a touch of Foster The People in its soft groovy production, but is way better than anything they’ve managed. The hook of the song is a fresh-sounding pan pipe motif, portamento’d elastically, which gives the song a quality that is both random and relentless.

‘Colors’ was co-exec produced by Beck with Greg Kurstin, who’s played in his live band and written tracks for the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Adele and Sia. When the collaboration works - as it does on the excellent Up All Night - it feels pretty unstoppable. Beck’s signature blend of groove and pop-psychedelia is incredibly confident and intelligent, while having the requisite amount of pared-back, gutsy optimism to stop the record from ever feeling too intellectual.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t quite connect. The meandering I’m So Free and trap-influenced Wow feel a little try-hard, with the video for the latter inducing many a cringe. The Capitol Records creative team are clearly trying to present Beck as the hipster we remember from the 90s. But we live in more woke times, and the knowledge that the rapper here is a middle-aged white Scientologist decisively undermines the song.

‘Colors’ is often compellingly creative, largely thanks to the absolute pop bangers mentioned. The problem is that some of the risks Beck takes simply do not pay off. To put it in FIFA terms, sometimes you’ve got to be prepared to lose in order to win.

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