Preview: beck's new midnite vultures
Perhaps the most listenable of Beck's rock-funk-bluegrass-soul-country-rap-electronica-polka menageries, the new Midnite Vultures adds soulful guitar licks, raging horns and many, many funk-inspired hooks to the usual mix of winsome melodies, carefully orchestrated electronic honking and bizarre lyrics produced by the world's hippest white guy. Played in its entirety last Sunday night on WFNX 101.7 FM, the album goes on sale Nov. 23.
A clear funk influence pervades the disc; despite layers and layers of noise, the larger portions of tracks such as "Milk and Honey" and the high-energy first single "Sexx Laws" remain sparse, highlighting the intertwining riffs which pop from guitar to bass to trumpet to sax and back. "Sexx Laws" and its driving horns might come straight from the James Brown songbook; other tunes could back up gangsta rap (though it's unlikely Method Man would tolerate this couplet, from "Hollywood Freaks": "We drop lobotomy beats/Evaporated meats"). The fantastically mellow "Debra" even features an impassioned falsetto vocal delivered to the world's most sensuous J.C. Penney clerk. "I wanna get with you," Beck says. "And your sister. I think her name's Debra."
But not content to merely lay down the groove and the ridiculous innuendo, Beck punctuates these tunes with seemingly incongruent sections. The chorus of "Milk and Honey" is radio-worthy arena rock; "Sexx Laws" breaks for a synthesizer-slide guitar-banjo trio. Yes, a banjo. This would seem to be either an odd attempt at musical novelty or a drug-inspired venture into self-indulgence. But, like the rest of Midnite Vultures, the banjo works, and brilliantly.