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Originally posted 6/18/2012. Updated 3/9/2013.
Released: 18 June 1996
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Devil’s Haircut (9/28/96, #94 US, #22 UK, #23 AR) 2. Hotwax 3. Lord Only Knows 4. The New Pollution (2/22/97, #78 US, #14 UK, #9 AR) 5. Derelict 6. Novacane 7. Jack-Ass (8/2/97, #73 US, #15 AR) 8. Where It’s At (6/15/96, #40a US, #5 UK, #5 AR) 9. Minus 10. Sissyneck (5/24/97, #30 UK) 11. Readymade 12. High 5 (Rock the Catskills) 13. Ramshackle
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.3 UK, 2.3 world (includes US and UK)
Peak: 16 US, 18 UK
Review: Beck’s song “Loser” “became the alternative-rock anthem of the summer” TB of 1994, but “many self-styled citizens of the alternative nation wrote him off as a one-hit wonder.” EW However, anyone who gave the “wildly eclectic Mellow Gold an open-minded listen knows that Beck Hansen is no novelty-tune phony.” EW The follow-up album proved to be “an eclectic melting pot of ideas,” TB which showcased “Beck’s rock-chameleon identity” EW via an ability “to jump from genre to genre in the manner of David Bowie in the 1970s.” TB With his “technicolor version of his Woody Guthrie-meets-Grandmaster Flash vision,” RS Odelay “found Beck collecting the grooves of generations past and reshaping them into a postmodern tapestry, merging countless samples and styles into one cohesive whole.” SL “Songs frequently morph from one genre to another, seemingly unrelated genre – bursts of noise give way to country songs with hip-hop beats, easy listening melodies transform into a weird fusion of pop, jazz, and cinematic strings.” AMG
An important trait to Beck’s success is his “whacked-out street poetry” EW and “ever-present sense of humor: Without straying into Weird Al territory, he imbues his lyrics with a healthy sense of the absurd – something almost entirely lacking in rock today. ‘'I got a stolen wife and a rhinestone life, and some good old boys/ I’m writing my will on a three-dollar bill,'’ he sings in ‘Sissyneck’.” EW “‘Devil’s Haircut’ describes a demented hell while The New Pollution parodies an age-old caricature of corrupt women.” SL
Credit also goes to “sampledelic producers the Dust Brothers,” RS who were “responsible for the smorgasbord of tasty, left-field samples on the Beastie Boys’ seminal Paul’s Boutique.” EW As a result, Odelay samples everyone from Tchaikovsky to the Frogs EW and tracks are filled “with background tambourines, maracas, and synthesizers, lending the album much of its bizarre, oddly gratifying texture.” SL
It isn’t just that Beck “accomplishes his sonic experiment” SL with “resolute confidence” SL and surprisingly “relative coherency.” SL The album is a “defining statement of an entire generation in the throes of finding its own voice.” SL “Odelay can be seen as the artist’s own cheeky response to other Gen X alternative acts.” SL He “completely ignored the angst-driven nihilistic trends of the grunge bands” SL AMG by “channeling the independent exuberance of alternative’s New Wave roots” SL and “demonstrating to his rock peers that turntables had a brighter future than refried grunge.” RS Beck “asks us to look past our conventional views of what something should or shouldn’t sound like.” SL “Odelay was just as much a swan song for alternative’s passing era as it was the ushering in of a new generation of pop music that was ever so left-of-center.” SL This is “vital music with a flea market ‘tude.” ZS
Where It’s At
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB page for Odelay
- Beck’s DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
- AMG All Music Guide review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- AZ Amazon.com review by David Cantwell
- BL Blender Magazine’s 100 Greatest American Albums (10/08)
- EW Entertainment Weekly The New Classics: Music (6/18/2007)
- RS Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
- SL Slant Magazine’s Vital Pop: 50 Essential Pop Albums by Slant staff (6/30/03).
- TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 280.
- ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 46.