28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2001
Beck Hansen's most accessible disc to date all but defies comparison. It's a little Donovon, a little early Bowie and some Beatles' white album tossed in for good measure. But these similarities do not overpower - they wash in and out with the ebb and flow of one genre morphing into another. For Mutations, Beck has put aside the discordant hip-hop of Odelay! and goofy Gen-X snicker-snicker of Mellow Gold. Languid vocals and a hypnotic mood prevail over rich layers of acoustic arrangments, twang, psychedelia, synths, sitars and even bossa nova. Like a travelogue into his subconscious, Mutations tours Beck's psyche, his influences and varying moods. Songs like "Bottle Of Blues" and "Canceled Check" are catchy, hummable ditties, while "Cold Brains," "Nobody's Fault But My Own" and "We Live Again" mesmerize with their introspective meanderings. Seems that America's most adorable geek has grown up. Lest you think he takes himself too seriously, Beck's grotesque imagery and clever musings sting with irony. Somehow, though, he still maintains a sincerity that distinguishes himself from the hipster wannabes out there trying to smirk their way onto a Rolling Stone cover.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2005
When Mutations came out after Odelay!, critics and fans said it wasn't a "real" Beck album, mostly due to its acoustic nature. What rubbish. This is a fantastic album, showing Beck to be more talented than a lot of people thought with his singing, songwriting, and guitar playing really shining here. And the songs, overall, are awesome. Tropicalia, Bottle of Blues, Nobody's Fault But My Own, Lazy Flies, Cold Brains, and an AWESOME hidden track (Diamond Bollocks) that is a cross between what Beck did on Odelay! and what he would do on Midnite Vultures. Just awesome.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 1999
I can't believe the consistency with which Beck shows his ability to manipulate so many types of music. This is a great example. You know how there are those CDs where you listen to a few tracks, but you skip the rest? Well, this is not one of those. This is one where you listen all the way through and love it. Beck's gotta be credited as one of the greatest musicians today. Who else comes up with an album on a yearly basis? And don't say Backstreet Boys, cause that's crap. I'm talkin' about people who write their own music and lyrics, and actually put themselves into it. Beck is obviously influenced by such greats as The Beatles, Bob Dylan and others, and he's not ashamed to show it. If you liked Odelay, this may not be your bag, but if you like Beck, you'll love it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2005
It is my opinion that the only things Beck needs to make a good album are his harmonica and his crazy lyrics. And this album is proof of that (although the harmonica isn't used often enough); there are no synthesizers, no pounding bass lines, no ear-piercing electric guitar solos. Instead, just acoustic guitars, and the voice of a generation's followed leader. Beck himself warned this release was not going to be alike Mellow Gold or Odelay. That is very true. This is more or less what Beck wished his early, early works (on 'albums' such as Stereopathetic Soulmanure and One Foot In The Grave) had sounded like: polished country/rock tunes. Despite what people will tell you, Mutations is a great, solid album that can be played from beginning to end without urges to skip songs--if you enjoy the softer, acoustic feel of Beck's music that was present in songs like "Ramshackle" and "Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997".
The only song that can be mentioned beside Odelay, "Diamond Bollocks", is hidden at the end of the album, because Beck felt it was inferior to the rest of the tracks (fittingly so). It is a genius, six-minute free-for-all track that is really worth the price of this disc by its lonesome. But as for the rest of the album, just as much praise should be given, if not more. The main singles, "Tropicalia" and "Nobody's Fault But My Own", are both excellent, while it's the likes of "Bottle Of Blues", "Cold Brains" and "Sing It Again" that stand out as (unknown) gems. "Cold Brains" is simple, but catchy enough to get you singing along. "Bottle Of Blues", equally as catchy, swings through twang and extra-strange lyrics for five long minutes. And "Sing It Again" carries its beautiful dreariness into one of Beck's greatest harmonica solos of all-time. "Static" proves to be a terrific closer (if you exclude the hidden song), while "Dead Melodies" and "We Live Again" are very similar yet just as intriguing in their background music. Next, "Lazy Flies" seems to be an upbeat brother to "Tropicalia"; "Canceled Check" sounds like a Bob Dylan throwaway and "O Maria" frolics through some la-la-las and surprisingly brilliant trumpet work. Did you notice not one of the songs I talked about got bad marks? And that's all 12 tracks, including the hidden one.
I guess I have to say if you're looking for another Odelay or Mellow Gold, that you will not find it here. But really, Midnite Vultures was an attempt at another Odelay, and look how well (or unwell, besides "Beautiful Way" and "Pressure Zone") that record turned out. Face it: there will never be another Odelay or another Mellow Gold. And there will also never be another Beck. So try to enjoy him no matter what he's doing. Take these songs for what they truly are--which are acoustically great tunes from an artist whose sense of direction is as off-the-wall as his lyrics. If you overlook this, it's nobody's fault but your own.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Years ago I heard Beck perform the dreamily concocted, beautifully sung "Nobody's Fault But My Own" on Saturday Night Live. Played onstage, I recall the song sounded even more harrowing and drawn out than I later thought it was on disc, but in any case, I remember really loving its intensely resigned and tuneful sound and vowed to check out the CD "Mutations" later on. Well, it's much later on and I can relate that "Mutations" is definitely worth owning. Funny enough, "Nobody's Fault" is definitely one of the more serious-sounding, somewhat anguished songs on this CD; the rest are mostly breezy gems that would be right at home on a windswept beach with a cool beverage in hand. In fact, much of this album reminds me of what Syd Barrett might be writing and singing if he were a young working artist today.
Even on his low-key songs, Beck is always so brilliant at adding in cool harmonica, keyboard, slide guitar and all sorts of unique instruments that the rest of us have never heard of. Though he's a whiz at inserting hip-hop beats and a slew of electronic trickery on his albums, this one is refreshingly stripped down. The poppy "Lazy Flies" reminds me of a Syd Barrett tune -- right down to the slight British accent Beck employs in the vocals -- but better and more focused. The lazy country twang of "Canceled Check" reminds me a bit of the song "San Tropez" on Pink Floyd's Meddle (a post-Barrett record), while "Tropicalia," as its name would imply, is a feel-good summer song that anybody could enjoy.
There is also a retro, fairy tale-esque sound to this CD on such songs as "We Live Again" and "Dead Melodies," which, to me, are reminiscent of Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era material. Gentle acoustics, elegant harpsichord, a touch of country, close vocals and an overall easy-flowing vibe -- "Mutations" modestly has it all. Weirdly, this CD made me want to reach back to past Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd compositions, while simultaneously attracting me to Beck's succeeding work. Like Barrett, Beck is a wildly experimental musician who's ahead of his time. By being less musically splashy than is the case on most of his other CDs, "Mutations" is itself quite an experimental creation by Beck.
Note: some pretty cool and loose rock `n' roll ends this album after "Static" as a hidden track.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2005
This album was a surprise to me- in the best sense possible. The liner notes were also surprising. Beck plays nearly every instrument on Mutations, which was especially notable to me because of the incredible musicianship demonstrated throughout the album. The best barometer of musicianship can be the 1-minute improvised or semi-improvised solo (on whatever instrument the performer plays) and Mutations has some of the best guitar solos by a mainstream artist in recent memory. "O Maria" and "Sing it, Again" being two excellent examples.
Throughout the album, which is weird and beautiful, usually at the same time, Beck's musicianship, songwriting gifts, and overall mastery of his craft is laid bare. There certainly are a plethora of diverse instruments on the album, some not played by Beck (trombone, sitar, cello, har flute) but they service a format that is very traditional. These are bluesy, country-folk inspired tunes with relatively straightforward and direct melodies. Even "Tropicalia," (ironically, a bossa-nova not tropicalia tune) with its shift in genre and brass section, still flows within the context of the album because of the uniform substance of the melody and lyrics and their predominance in the foreground over the production.
Thelyrics blend characteristic bluesy themes (heartache, sadness- both genuine and tongue-in-cheek) with Beck's singular brand of satirical commentary on a culture he perceives as declining and crass. Sometimes, this occurs at the same time. On "Bottle of Blues," Beck sings "I just found me a bottle of blues/Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe/Ain't it hard, ain't it hard/To want somebody who doesn't want you." The next stanza, he darkly sings about "impotent dreams" and "graveyard machines" in a reminder that this is Beck after all.
Images of rust, rot, decay, abandonment, and death continually appear. This is a dark album, and its imagery is perhaps the 21st century vision of what country-blues music is. Beck channels the talent and format of Hank Williams with his own twisted view of society (is it his view or is it society that is twisted?). Something is always a little off. No melody is ever perfect or entirely pretty. But that off-kilter uniformity makes Mutations such an interesting and unusual treat
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2000
Good gravy, this Beck fella's talented. And I don't mean merely in the lyrics department--my feeling is that he's still learning to control his tongue. Even the music on this disc is enough to get you hooked. I can't stop singing and/or humming these tunes. They go everywhere, it seems. To call this album "folky" (see below) is to miss the point. This goes way beyond "folk" (I'd like to meet the "folk" who dabble in this strange hybridity). Bonus: the Japanese version gives you two extra tracks that are *maybe* as good as anything else on the disc. "Electric Music and the Summer People" has a surfy, sixties, party feel to it, while "Runners Dial Zero" has an eerie, driving-late-at-night vibe. Outstanding disc, all told. I only wish he would've played some of these songs when I saw him live several months ago. This is a CD I won't even leave at my girlfriend's house.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2003
Mutations is the epitome of a great album. From beginning to end, it flows with one haunting song after another, an ideal example of an album not to download and randomly assemble. Its strength is in its power as one cohesive musical experience, connected by a sad-eyed mood present in the production and the songs themselves. The tone evokes the kind of desolate beauty one might find in junkyards or the squalor after a tornado. The sonic plushness ironically heightens the bleakness. Beck incorporates a variety of diverse instruments, including trombone, harpsichord, banjo, and sitar, which allow the songs' 'dead melodies' to resonate. "Tropicolia"'s deep subversiveness is intensified by the cheesy sounding horn section, a commentator that perfectly assesses this tourist trip to a landfill.
The production would have no meaning if it weren't built on phenomenal songwriting. As a lyricist, Beck is highly capable of writing silly lyrics- as one listen to the chorus of "Nicotine and Gravy" from his later Midnight Vultures album affirms. But in Mutations, Beck allows interesting truths to bloom. "Treated you like a rusty blade, a throwaway from an open grave; cut you loose from a chain gang and let you go" he sings on "Nobody's Fault But My Own," arguably the best song on the album. Beck has never sounded so vulnerable and lyrically on-top of things. He's also one of the few artists who writes wholly unique music. His melodes are distinctly Beck. The tragic prettiness of "Dead Melodies" and the bridge of "We Live Again" climax Beck's songwriting ingenuousness and originality. They send chills don't your spine because you've never heard anything like them.
Listening to Mutations is a highly gratifying musical experience for me. The deft originality and musical skill with which it was made is uncanny, and leaves a breathless mark on your emotions and brain. Very few music released nowadays can do that (in any genre, not just pop music). In that respect, Mutations reminds me why I love music in the first place.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2004
Most wouldn't call this one Beck's best album, but it's my personal favourite by Beck. The songs are generally laid-back although there's too much going on in them (and they're just too good) to be considered background music or easy listening. "Nobody's Fault But My Own" in particular is one of Beck's best, most moving songs (at least for someone who can relate to it). It's sooo dreamy, with exotic instruments such as sitar enhancing the mood.
Above all, this is an art album, Beck's forte, and Beck's typically off-the-wall imagery goes hand in hand with his pastiche of crazy sounds and styles. I won't gush about every song, but they're all great. Even the Bossa Nova "Tropicalia," my least favourite, is irrepressible.
Beck's lyrics are ambiguous enough to leave the songs open to wide interpretation, yet they're still so moving, like the delicate "Dead Melodies." Also worth noting is the unlisted bonus cut (whatever it's called). It's almost a conglomeration of everything he's done in the past. The only song that rocks on MUTATIONS, it rocks in a quintessential alt-rock fashion. At the same time, it's loaded with all kinds of musical noises including a Butthole Surfers' style "birdy interlude" and more transformations than you can wrap your mind around with one listen . . . (note to self: Beck is a genius!)
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 1999
vastly different from Odelay, this album is. one might wonder exactly what sort of mindset mr. beck was in at the time of its conception. it's true that this isn't as broad or experimental or maybe creative or blahblahblah as odelay, but what this album may lack in variety, it makes up for in genuine, lovely lyrics and gentle acoustic sets. think of it as odelay tuned and stripped down. the more jostling tracks, 'lazy flies' and 'tropicalia', along with the near ten minute hidden song, even out the flow. each track compliments well with one another; all are similar in structure with the same lazy, mellowed pace--i personally think that's a positive aspect. from the breathtaking 'cold brains', 'nobody's fault but my own', to 'static', this record is the prettiest to date. gentle and well-rounded, similar to such tracks(on odelay) as 'jackass', 'readymade', and 'ramshackle.' i personally really dig this album, i think it's soothing and just sweet. for those of you seeking more energetic, more, well, "BECK"-y beck, odelay may be more appropriate, but, if what you're seeking is a softer, gentler, more intricate beck, get this right now.