Beck – Odelay, plus…

Universal reissue Odelay/Sea Change/Guero on vinyl with Beck’s other records promised to be on their way. John Earls reports…

odelay/sea change/guero


After the beautiful but heavy-going mood of 2014’s Morning Phase, Beck switched back up to his funk side for last year’s Dreams single. It proved to be a preview of his new album which, as the colourful psychedelia of its second single Wow showed, is Beck’s most complete dance album since Odelay. Certainly, it’s more complete than his most recent upbeat offerings Midnite Vultures or Guero.

So, is Beck’s return to Prince-style impishness being celebrated by being left to charge ahead in the crowded pre-Christmas market? Or is Universal muddying the waters by choosing now as the right moment to finally reissue some of his old albums on vinyl? You can see the logic to a certain extent – any new fans wowed by Wow might want to check his most acclaimed work, which certainly includes Odelay and Sea Change. But, realistically, how many brand new fans is someone as established as Beck likely to attract?

More to come

Carping aside, it’s good that Universal are starting a vinyl campaign, regardless of the timing. They’ve vowed that Beck’s other albums will follow. There’s nothing that exciting about the vinyl offerings – standard original packaging/heavyweight 180gm vinyl/download code format – but it’s sensibly priced.

It also means that Guero is finally on vinyl. It’s the poorest of the campaign’s first albums, but having been released in 2005 just before the vinyl boom, it’s never been available on the format. And to say Guero is only for completists is to sneer too much at the ruckus Beck raises on Black Tambourine and Beasties co-write E-Pro.

‘Odelay is a real word.’

But it’s undeniable that 1996’s Odelay and Sea Change from six years later are superior. Sea Change, the lovelorn precursor to Morning Phase, has long been unavailable on vinyl. Fourteen years later, its melancholy sometimes sounds a little forced next to the subtler Morning Phase, but it’s still frequently devastasting, a heartbreaking contrast to Beck’s studiedly eccentric persona. Its standard reissue means there is, alas, no sign of the shocking-pink vinyl edition it received as a limited run in 2002. Odelay pretty much set the template for that high priest of hipster image. Where It’s At and Devil’s Haircut should be overfamiliar, yet they still sound like nothing else, while Readymade and Novacane are just as astonishing. It’s 20 years old, yet it’s only now that others are starting to catch up. To an extent, that includes Beck himself, who’s only recently bettered Odelay for sheer exuberance with his new album. Why not pick up all three alongside the new Beck? Ah yes, now Universal’s plan makes sense…