Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Beck - Midnite Vultures (1999)

A memorable mix of funk rock, R&B with an alt rock twang

In spite of a Grammy award for the Best Alternative Music AlbumBek David Campbell aka Beck's 1998 release Mutations, was little more than a side project, apparently finished in 14 days – an album to keep the fans content while he was busy working on the proper follow-up to the critically adored Odelay (1996). So, on his 1999 seventh album effort, Midnite Vultures, Beck took his musical playfulness and experimentation to a whole new realm. 

Midnite Vultures is a cut-and-paste alt rock blend of 70s funk, 80s hip-hop, 70s R&B and 80s dance music. If Rick James and Kraftwerk had made an album that was produced by the Beastie Boys and engineered by Prince, the result would have sounded a lot like this. For an album that's mostly about sex, Midnite Vultures oozes sexiness all throughout. Just as Beck takes a unique approach to his music, on this album he takes a unique view of sex and what is considered sexy. 

At various times, Beck is both admiring and parodying the likes of Prince, Rick James, and Barry White. Just look at the album's horns-and-bass opener, "Sexx Laws" The chorus finds Beck singing "I want to defy/ The logic of all sex laws/ Let the handcuffs slip off your wrists/ I'll let you be my chaperone/ At the halfway home." On "Nicotine and Gravy," Beck's narrator tells a potential conquest that he'll "leave graffiti where you've never been kissed." The song bounces and oozes along on a drum and bass groove until it gets to the snake-charming synth break in the middle. Never before has the line "Her left eye is lazy" sounded more seductive. "Mixed Bizness" is the best funk number on Midnite Vultures, and finds Beck singing that he'll "make all the lesbians scream." 

"Get Real Paid," a warped little '80s techno number, features the line "Thursday night, I think I'm pregnant again" followed by the line "Touch my ass if you're qualified." Needless to say, we're not dealing with your basic "Oooh baby I want you so bad" lyrics here. The rolling, twangy "Peaches and Cream" is one of the wilder sexcapades on Midnite Vultures, as Beck sings "You look good in that sweater/ And that aluminum crutch/ I'm gonna let you down easy/ I've got the delicate touch." Other lyrics include "We're on the good ship menage a trois" and "You make a garbage man scream.

Beck's most blatant parody of the sex music genre is the hilarious "Debra,". It's the wickedly funny story of a guy who picks up a girl at JC Penney and takes her for a ride in his Hyundai, all sung in the most sincere Prince-like falsetto. Simply brilliant. 

For most artists, albums like Mellow Gold (1994) and Odelay would be considered as creative highpoints. But for Beck, after listening to this 'album of the year' Grammy nominated album, it appears that those albums were just the beginning, he exceeds even your highest expectations.


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