CD Review of Odelay Deluxe Edition by Beck
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Beck: Odelay Deluxe Edition

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD


y now, we all know the story: Scientologist boy somehow beats locked-down pop radio playlists with his junkyard blues "Loser" and sets off a major-label bidding war for his first album, Mellow Gold. The follow-up, Odelay, can be summed up thusly: Loser meets Dust Brothers, the production tandem that on Paul's Boutique took the Beastie Boys from annoying frat-rap to artistic relevancy, and it's a smash hit. Some 14 years on, the songs still sound great, almost new, a futuristic sample-fest that holds up to repeated listens. "Jack-Ass," "Devil's Haircut," "The New Pollution," "Where It's At" -- it's all good.

The Deluxe Edition, however, isn't an excuse for a reissue; there's plenty of quality content added, starting with a Thurston Moore essay that makes about as much sense as Beck's stream-of-consciousness warblings but somehow fits into the total package, like the priceless Q & As with 15 high schoolers in the liner notes exploring the impact Odelay had on their lives (which is to say, absolutely none). The cover's altered, taking the original and defacing it in Beck-esque, shopworn style. But more importantly, there are 17 new tracks added to the original 14, which -- even when you take into account three remixes of "Devil's Haircut" and "Where It's At" and two versions of "Jack-Ass" -- there's still enough good stuff here scraped from B-sides and various bonus tracks issued here and there to make it more than worth buying. Three cuts are previously unreleased: "Deadweight," a cute little Latin jazz ditty in the style Beck fans came to appreciate with Guero; "Inferno," a  fast-moving, funky hip-hop thing; and  "Gold Chains," a "Beck blues" slide guitar rap that would have fit right in on Mellow Gold. The remixes are no great shakes, though -- a really annoying Aphex Twin techno-reconstruction of "Devil's Haircut" as well as an ugly Mickey P punk-metal treatment of the same and more "Where It's At," a song that begs for mindless remixing ad infinitum.

The B-sides, though, feature a nice assortment of hard-rocking beats, introspective melodies, and raunchy guitar riffs. They don't really sound like cast-offs; from start to finish, this sounds like a legit double album. That either means Beck was at the absolute top of his music-making game and could do no wrong during this period, or his label was holding back and cheated us out of some great stuff the first time around because they just didn't get it. Either way, as Beck would sing, pay no mind. Even the folky "Strange Invitation" and the gorgeous Spanish-language, Mariachi-tinged "Burro" -- two experimental renditions of the song that ended up "Jack-Ass" -- finish off the second disc with a flourish. Whether you're a Beck fan or not, this record is even better the second time around. He's got that something special -- like Bowie, Prince, or Madonna, he can shift musical styles and physical looks easily, like you and I shift gears in our cars on the freeway, and it's freaking cool. The 2.0 upgrade to Odelay just proves that again: its cutting-floor leavings sound better than many other musicians' finest material.

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