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Beck Midnite Vultures (DGC/Interscope)

A review by Courtney Knopf

Aside from "Making all the lesbians scream," Beckís mission with his newest album, Midnite Vultures, is to make love to our ears. And after listening to the finished product on a nearly continuous loop for the past month, I can say without a doubt that he succeeds tremendously. Midnite Vultures is a funk infused, tongue in cheek sex-fest that blends his signature folk & hip-hop mixture with rap, rock and some really, really funky basslines that could double as the soundtrack to a porn flick. Strongly recalling elements of Princeís Sign O The Times, Beck subjects us to an all out postmodern musical frenzy thatís harder to stop than an oncoming train.

Beck! Produced by Mr. Hansen with the aid of long time Beastie Boys collaborator Mickey Petralia, Midnite Vultures oozes sex from every pore. Heís stepped out of the mellow, melancholy twang of Mutations and morphed into a libidinous lothario whoís looking to get into your pants. "This is the real me, ladies,"he purrs on "Broken Train," which is probably the only song to ever include the pick-up line "Tell me whatís your zip code, baby?" Definitely not 90210.

Born and raised in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake, Beck has a unique take on his fellow Angelenos. "Hollywood Freaks" knowingly skewers L.A. scenesters in a deadpan imitation of Puffy. Rapping about "hot sex in back rows" and "tricked out Hyundais" over a porno bassline and scratching courtesy of the Dust Brothers, itís like being invited into the back of a limo to do some blow. "Get Real Paid," an 80ís throwback thatís a distant relative of "Electric Avenue" opens with the sound of moving hydraulics and metal clanging against metal, supposedly the sound two robots would make in the heat of copulation. Randy automatons? Welcome to Beckís new sound. Itís hedonistic and decadent; a frenzied barrage of sounds destined to make for great party music.

In the first single "Sexx Laws," the red-headed stepchild of Motown and Sun Studios, horn arrangements and a banjo live in harmony while Beck sings about "Brief encounters in Mercedes Benz" and being a "Full grown man." From start to finish, Beck is in complete control, though occasionally heís aided by a few guests. Joining him on this album are former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and electro-folk chanteuse Beth Orton. Marr lends his guitar to the track "Milk & Honey," while Orton provides backing vocals to the only ballad on the album, "Beautiful Way," a languid and twangy song that goes to show Beck will probably never lose his inner cowboy, no matter how much Dionysian debauchery his alter ego may be participating in.

The piece de resistance is "Debra," the albumís closing track, an unabashedly down and dirty slow-jam about a girl he met at the Glendale Galleria. Co-written with John King and Mike Simpson (AKA the Dust Brothers), the beauty of the song is not only the seriousness with which he embraces the cheesy 70ís R&B grooves and glass-breaking high notes, but also because itís unapologetically about getting two sisters into bed with him. Originally recorded for Odelay, "Debra" has become a staple of Beckís live show and usually finds him down on his knees with all the showmanship of James Brown, crooning for the ladies to "Step inside my Huyndai." And all of this without a hint of irony. Heís serious about making sweet love down by the fire. And by the time you finish listening to Midnite Vultures, youíll want to be next in line.

[98%] A

Catch Beck December 4th on Saturday Night Live, and on the Tonight Show on Friday, December 10th. A full scale tour kicks off in January. Check out www.beck.com for more information.

If you haven't seen it already, check out Courtney's Top Ten Albums of 1999






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