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Beck - Hyperspace (Album Review)

Friday, 29 November 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Citizen Kane Wayne

Beck’s 14th studio record follows hot on the heels of his 2017 offering, ‘Colors’, and in many ways acts as a musical response. Where that record was a raucous and bouncy romp through beats and synth riffs, ‘Hyperspace’ is more gloomy, with introspection accompanying retro chill-wave and washy dream pop...plus a lot of the same synths.

Stratosphere is one track that leaps headlong into this. It’s a wistful guitar ballad that has a soporific CBD quality, channelling 1980s trudge and massive reverb. There is also the excellent Die Waiting. This latter song’s simple poetry and breathy synths make for one of the most distinctive and memorable moments on the album.

Saw Lightning is also fun—Beck's art-school interpretation of the country rap hit, Old Town Road, with popcorn synths tapping out an earworm riff.

It’s one of the more memorable songs and would have felt highly original had it been released in 2015. As is, it has a novelty quality that might suit it to a ride at Legoland. 

And therein lies the problem with this ‘Hyperspace’. Beck has always been has an eclectic artist whose musical genre varies wildly, but there is a certain impetus here to chase trends. This is the case when Uneventful Days pops up with its trap-inspired vocal rhythms and autotuned melodies. 

It is also the problem with Chemical, where Beck apes the current style of syncopated, descending melody bars. On one level, it is a highly impressive turn from a 49-year-old who is clearly still plugged into the musical mainframe, but it also feels rather cloying.

We sometimes take artists for granted when their stock is lower. Beck is a remarkable musician who has trodden a highly individual path through pop. He is also one of the best live performers on the circuit with a band (and a catalogue) that is fit to amaze. However, this is a bang average record that chases trends when as recently as his previous album it felt like he was still setting them.

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