Diversify and conquer: For stock marketeers operating in a shaky economy, that's sound advice. Genre-bending wunderkind Beck Hansen reaped huge artistic dividends with his inventive, eclectic mid-'90s records by applying this principle to popular music, rocking folk and hip-hop, funking up children's instruments, sewing in samples from forgotten sources and mad-libbing his musings.
But while Beck's nudge & wink shtick stayed constant, his stylistic crossbreeding would give way to song sets centered around a single theme or mood -- such as "Mutations'" vintage folkadelics and "Midnite Vultures'" Princely bling of sex farce.
Purportedly a memoir of Beck's exile in splitsville, "Sea Change" serves up a bierstein of Beck-lite. Lamentations such as "Lost Cause" and "Already Dead" are certified head-hangers, but the only thing remotely Beck about them is his singing. These songs don't crackle with that weird, goofball electricity of old; they flatly mimic '70s singer/songwriter B-sides. The attached sentiments are about as essential as Hallmark's.
"Sea Change's" few rewards come when Beck grants his grief legs, whether infusing "Paper Tiger" with swank, symphonic funk or copping some vertigo-inducing Melvins bong smoke on "Little One." His worn-but-warming voice splits, harmonizes and melts into the cresting, High Llama-ian wave of "Sunday Sun." Such flights of fancy only reinforce the notion that all pathos and no pluck makes Beck a very dull homeboy.