Archive for the ‘Oeuvre’ Category

The Beck Oeuvre: Song #7 “Acropolis Now”

Monday, August 25th, 2008

This odd little recording is next up! It was only released, when it was streamed on beck.com a few years back. This post is a little long so let’s just get started:

Funkatron:

I don’t get to dine out on this one much, but I thought it worth sharing with the people who it would appeal to most.

Back in September 2006 I got to interview Beck for the second time, this time in connection with The Information, and this time face-to-face, after the phoner we’d had in 2005. Not only Beck, but also Justin [Meldal-Johnsen], who sat with us on the 40-minute interview, making it the first time I had to interview two people at once. We spoke about a few of his songs, and I might go back to those bits later on The Oeuvre, but for the moment let’s see is anyone cares about this, ha ha..

After chatting a lot about The Information, we got to talking about the back catalogue and Beck mentioned having piles of old cassettes from the early 90s laying about. I thought that maybe some sort of rarities collection could be compiled to take care of all of this stuff.

“I’m like any musician,” he went on to say. “There’s just, there’s – you’re – the way the music business is structured, you sort of get one shot every year or two. I mean that, every two or three years to put out a record. And you’re inevitably going to end up with a lot of extra stuff that you don’t really know what to do with, or it’s not, you know, the record company won’t put any interest in it, or what-not. I started to put stuff up on my website.”

It sounded like “Acropolis Now” to me, which had been posted online just a few months before, so I thought perhaps this was a good time to bring it up. Beck sort of trailed off with, “Yeah, that was my, uh, concept band…” while Justin gave it an enthusiastic, “That’s the shit!”

Beck: “That’s something I’ve been working on for years.”

A concept band?

Beck: “Well, just sort of a concept. I wouldn’t say it was a band. I did this, uh, performance art piece years ago, uh, where I was recreating, sort of, Yanni at the Acropolis concert? Gone horribly wrong [laughs]. So, it – “

Justin: “My fondest memory. Ever.”

Beck: “Yeah. We all sort of dressed up in these New Age clothes, and I had a sort of headset mic going through a robot voice and… I think we had, like, porpoise sounds. And it just escalated into more ridiculousness, and then the whole thing about how dolphins and technology were gonna save the world. And then a giant dolphin with a giant phallus comes out and starts having sex with this giant cardboard computer we created. And then we chainsawed DX7s and then it’s… over.”

That sounds insane.

Justin: “That does sound insane.”

Beck: “Yeah, it is. ’Cause I, I think at the time I was thinking, there was so much of this sort of [Justin laughs] You know, growing up with punk rock and, you know, what’s the most underground – what’s the most extreme thing you can do?”

Justin: “Yeah, yeah.”

Beck: “And it was kind of – in the 90s it was getting piercings and tattoos, and bands wearing, like, masks. Kinda taking it so far, and it was sort of becoming so, uhm, such overkill, and it was losing the effect of shock. And so I, I got to a point – one time we were in Texas somewhere in a rental car, me and the band. And, uh, Enya came on the radio and we all started – and then we said, “Turn that fucking shit up!””

Justin: “Turn that shit up!”

Beck: “We turned it all the way up so that the speakers were distorting and exploding, and it just sounded like the heaviest shit you’ve ever heard, and we were all banging our heads. And that’s probably where the idea came from. Heavy New Age.”

I guess the dolphin thing’s interesting, since Beck had also played what’s become known as “Touch Dolphins” in Amsterdam in June the same year. The best thing about this whole “Acropolis Now” part of the interview, however, is that they were both laughing throughout – Justin in particular – yet totally committed to the idea behind it. That it only ended up online for a short period of time for no fee is testament, I guess, to how prolific Beck is, and that he clearly just pounds out the music for his own sake. Not many people would go to the bother of full costumes, props and stage design for something no one else is going to see? I kind of feel that, in that respect, he’s much like Prince, who records umpteen full-production videos in Paisley Park for his own enjoyment. Pharrell Williams once said Prince, “He will continue to make great records as long as he wants to. A man like that cannot be stopped,” and I think there’s a definite parallel to be drawn somewhere.

Vitamin.Deb:

When this first showed up at beck.com, I listened to it once, laughed, and promptly forgot about it until now. On this listen, I got a much heartier laugh out of it and it sort of gave me a mini-anxiety episode. It’s just very evocative of that feeling of bliss I get when my baby falls asleep –everything’s good, lah-de-dah, flowers and rainbows, and then BOOM, I sneeze really loud, or my husband drops something on the kitchen floor, or a car alarm goes off outside – and she wakes up. Waaaahhhhhh!

Brian LeBarton (Beck’s keyboardist, on his MySpace around the time this was recorded):

Twas a wondrous week of Yanni and Cannibal Corpse.

Newt:

Some thoughts as I listen:

More like aCRAPolis now! Ohhhh burn!

Nah, I’m just kidding. This song’s alright, I guess. This is the kinda thing I would expect people to release on their websites: far too weird and far too crappy for a real release, half-assed production, etc. It isn’t that it’s bad, really, it’s just that it’s…I dunno, filler?

Most of it is pretty I guess. I kinda wonder who is playing the piano or whatever, and if any of the piano bits were written/planned, or if the person was just kinda jamming on it.

Actually, this kinda reminds me of the little date interlude things (“11.6.45 / 8.4.82 / 8.6.82″) that Beck did, only more modern. Beck has better technology and equipment, but he’s still just kinda fucking around and playing with sound and stuff. This is like Stereopathetic 2006.

I was about to write that the song was longer than I thought, and that it should have been over by now. Then I realized I had it looping. Heh.

AlmostAGhost:

I wrote a drabble (a story with exactly 100 words):

“Acropolis Now”

We’re here! The cruise across the Mediterranean has finally arrived. The sea air would do us good, and the chance to experience Greece? Excitement. This Greek trip was a long time coming.

Visions of history – The Olympics! The Parthenon! Aristotle! Yanni!!! — swam around our minds. It was a beautiful sunny day. Where to first? Clearly, it had to be the Acropolis, now. The cab ride was not long, stopping at the hotel could wait.

The real journey began—halfway around the world, headed to the Acropolis. We arrive, the impressive building before us. A strange man approaches, carrying a…. AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

And finally, if you haven’t heard the song, here it is for download. (file since removed, sorry!)

“Ain’t Your Time To Go” from one of Beck’s legendary KCRW shows is next!

The Beck Oeuvre: Song #6 “Ace Of Spade”

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Throw the chicken! Break the wine!

This song, being the first we hit from the old tapes, has led to some reflection about the old tapes themselves. And a cool photo depiction of the song!

Newtron

There was a period of time — back in the day, after the Beck mailing list shut down — when I was cut off from the greater Beck internets. I had not yet discovered the Beck.com BBS and, even once I had, it still took me awhile to get into it and use it. I’m pretty sure I was in second year university when I finally returned to the Beck fold. One of the first things that I had discovered is that a new demo tape, Don’t Get Bent Out of Shape, had been unearthed (by Chonk I believe).

I love One Foot in the Grave (the album, though also the song). I love rare Beck stuff. Here was an entire album’s worth of brand new folksy, bluesy rare Beck shit! Hells yes! I was really stoked to discover this.

‘Ace of Spade’, among others on DGBOOS, caused my roommates at the time to ask “what the hell kind of tribal music” I was listening to. I guess through walls and closed doors the bassy recording, hard strumming, and occasional guitar thump sound like crazy tribal rhythms.

This is a darn good song.

AlmostAGhost

I was thinking I would note the bluesiness of this song, and especially the lyrics, here. But upon re-listening to the song a bunch of times, I’m struck instead by Beck’s voice. He does not do anything really noteworthy, it’s that half-talk, half-sing type of voice. But he also nails the youthful exuberance, which is certainly as much the joy of these early tapes as the songs themselves.

Momma

Vitamin.Deb

When I was a kid my dad had a ton of vinyl, and I loved watching him listen to his favorites on the turntable in our basement. He was, and still is, very much a Stones/Fleetwood Mac/Mamas & the Papas kind of guy. I adored that stuff and still do too, but it was just as fun to visit my friends’ homes and listen to various different kinds of music with their parents. My friend Joanne is the one who had the hippie parents who were into folk music. I don’t remember discussion of specific artists, but I’m pretty sure that’s how/where I first got familiar with Woody Guthrie.

“Ace Of Spade” reminds me of being at Joanne’s house, which always felt like a big hug when the music was on. And it always was.

This is where I get to out myself as a latecomer to being an uber-fan. I didn’t become an online-active Beck fan until after Guero came out. I found the hub then and downloaded like crazy, including the old tapes, but a lot of that stuff I haven’t really listened to since then. Finding this song again and listening to it for this project has put a big smile on my face. It reminds me of how much more open I’ve become again to different kinds of music through exploring Beck’s oeuvre and his roots. I think it’s phenomenal that this one man is like a musical village. I used to have to go from house to house as a kid to get exposed to different kinds of music. But through his life’s work, Beck’s kind of compiled so much of that and become a conduit for so many of us, leading us to seek out even more and to have many more musical adventures. I’m incredibly grateful to him for that.

Next, a trip to “Acropolis Now”!

The Beck Oeuvre: Song #5 “99″

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Beck and Jack White, August 11, 2002

Hey, Beck and Jack White!  What’s that on your record player?

“99″?  Who is that?

Barbara Feldon

Oh I see.  From Get Smart“!  And you say you’re going to play it live tonight?

Beck & Jack play it live! (right click and save as!) (file removed)

Awesome!  What did the FRX think of the song?

Newtron:

Have you heard the original, Barbara Feldon version of this song? No?! Do yourself a favour and get it right now!

Who didn’t have a crush on Agent 99? Three groups of people: people that like dudes, people that didn’t watch Get Smart, and people that are dead. I am not a member of any of those groups! Venn diagram!

I think it’s great that Barbara Feldon recorded this song. It’s funny, and I assume it means she wasn’t uptight about being typecast as 99. When Beck and Jack White did this song, I spent some trying to find the original 7″ that Feldon released, but I guess it’s pretty rare (or at least hard to Google).

Unfortunately, Beck doesn’t really participate too much in his version — it’s pretty much just Jack White letting loose. However, how bad-ass is it that Jack White knows and loves this song, guys? Very bad-ass! I guess Beck’s lackluster additions are pretty funny.

almostaghost:

I know it’s the wrong “99,” but I wanted to include a picture of Anne Hathaway. <3

We’re done with the numbers!  Next song up: “Ace Of Spade”!

The Beck Oeuvre: Song(s) #4 “11.6.45 / 8.4.82 / 8.6.82″

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

First of all, I would be an epic fail of a blogger if I didn’t point you to the brilliant videos someone (unofficially) made. Kudos to the creators!

k0matose:

In my case, it was March 26, 1994. I had just picked up the mysterious Stereopathetic Soulmanure at the local record shop in Durham, NC and I was listening to it for the first time in my buddy’s 1976 Camaro that probably still has that same flat gray primer paint job today. My friend Chip had carefully rigged up a Sony Discman using velcro and electrical tape, with my lap providing the anti-skip technology for tunes on the move.

When we got to “8.6.82,” we were both suddenly shocked because we were very familiar with the sped up sounds and the sudden starts and stops. We both owned these microcassette recorders and frequently recorded people saying stupid shit into the mic, and we’d speed them up and slow them down, eventually rerecording onto a normal cassette for distribution to our friends. Beck’s impromptu recordings may very well have been the thing that really got me interested in him… he was goofing around doing the same thing my buddies and I did.

Of course, the hi-tech microcassette was what Beck had used on these date songs, and it was the same thing sitting in my pocket on that day. Chip was the only person I knew that had a car, so I convinced him to drive us to Durham to see Beck. I had brought my microcassette recorder to tape the show at the Duke Coffeehouse that night. Too bad the tape recorder was a piece of junk, as it seized up after a few songs, but not before capturing a few of Beck’s early improv moments along with a snippet of my voice and a frenzied audience. I didn’t find the bootleg on the intarweb until a few years ago… I was shocked and amazed to see that the crappy microcassette recordings were still making the rounds.

I wonder if Beck feels the same about “8.6.82,” “11.6.45,” and “8.4.82.”

“8.4.82″:

AlmostAGhost:

Not to go overboard on this, but I really don’t think Stereopathetic would be as awesome as it is without these clips. They really set the atmosphere of absurd lo-fi-ness which defines the album. I was stunned to learn that voice is Beck’s. I always picture some crazy lady, dressed in tatters, on the side of the road, probably homeless, certainly drunk.

“11.6.45″:

Vitamin.Deb:

These just make me think that if I’d gone to junior high with Beck, I’d probably have professed to hate him while secretly crushing hard.

“8.6.82″

Beck:

I had a microcassette recorder and I was fooling around one day and I started talking into it making up stories and then hit stop by mistake and had to start again but it sounded great the way it just cut off, the way the kid was talking and then it had a high-speed mode and I sort of just discovered this character and I just started telling stories into it like it was a diary. So I started using it [during] my shows, I’d talk about this kid and I’d found this tape and this was his diary, and use little snippets between songs. A couple of them made it onto that record, I had a whole cassette full and I played it at a show in Seattle around that time and someone jumped up on stage after I’d left the stage and grabbed the tape recorder. All those stories are lost, but a couple of them survived on that record.

If you were that kid who stole the tape recorder, we’d like to get in touch with you.

A rare live track, “99,” is up next!

The Beck Oeuvre: Song #3 “1000BPM”

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Comin’ at you a thousand beats per minute! Not surprisingly, most of our thoughts of this song revolve around bears:

Vitamin.Deb

I do believe I am one of the first people to have heard this song in public. He debuted it as part of the encore of the night on May 24, 2006 at Freeborn Hall, UC Davis, which was the first show of the pre-release tour for The Information. My excitement level for that show was out of control, which had a lot to do with the fact that my first Beck show had been at the same venue nine years prior. (That’s another story that I’m sure I’ll tell in a different blurb.) It was awesome to see the debut of the puppets and the puppet videos without knowing anything at all about those ahead of time, but I admit I was disappointed by the energy level of the overall performance. It had started a bit with the Guero shows, but it was The Info tour when we as fans really had to begin to adjust our expectations of what a stage performance from Beck would be, and I wasn’t ready to do that then. This track left me with a particularly bad taste because as would become the routine, it was played over the speakers as the album track and not performed. Dancing bears, anyone? I remember leaving the show and being a bit ticked that it ended in part with a recorded track. I was very WTF about it at the time.

Anyway, when the record came out I absolutely fell in love with the song. I am a sucker for killer bass tracks. The Info came out during the time when I was driving back and forth way too much between Sacramento and Berkeley, and I blasted this song many a time on that long I-80 stretch. This is one of those songs I listened to on repeat until I had the lyrics down cold and could sing along perfectly. (I would never ever do that in front of anyone else, btw. That’s definitely an alone-in-the-car activity.)

AlmostAGhost:

The word this song brings to mind for me is “inorganic.” The song was never performed live, instead the record was played over the speakers. Beck’s voice sounds processed, with effects and echos placed on it. The beats are unreal, the bass has the precision of a computer. The lyrics are futuristic and sci-fi. A thousand beats per minute? That’s unnatural and extreme idea. Even the bears on stage for this song weren’t real.

Awesome Unofficial 1000BPM Video Of Legos:

Newtron

In my opinion, ’1000 BPM’ is one of the least accessible songs on The Information; this does not mean it’s actually bad. My first taste of Info was when the video compilation of ‘This Girl‘ / ’1000 BPM’ / ‘No Complaints‘ / ‘Movie Theme‘ / ‘New Round‘ was released, and I remember not getting ’1000 BPM’ at all. It was a song that I really wanted to like, but I couldn’t figure it out. The beat and rhythm of the vocals, to my ear, didn’t match at all with the beat of the of the music and it reminded me of a shitty Master P song. The constant clanging was irritating. It bothered me. I probably even lied about liking it so I would seem cool, but really I didn’t and I wasn’t.

When I actually heard the song in full, though, it started to grow on me. I started to get what Beck was going for, and enjoy it more for what it was. It’s still not even close to my favourite Beck rap, but I have a much greater appreciation for it. To me, ’1000 BPM’ will always be a grow-er, not a show-er.

As a side note, at one point I created a track to see what a 1000 BPM beat would actually sound like. It was basically a drone, with individual beats completely indistinguishable.

Also, I like at live shows when this song featured bears humping giant boomboxes.

Also, I like that this is (one of?) the only Beck song(s) with the word “jism” in it.

Yes, Newt, it’s the only one.

And if anyone wasn’t able to make a show in 2005 or 2006, here’s what we’re talking about with the bears:

Got some good stuff up next for the “11.6.45 / 8.4.82 / 8.6.82″ trilogy!

The Beck Oeuvre: Song #2 “10,000 Pesos″

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

“10,000 Pesos” is a short little piece Beck recorded for Nacho Libre. It was released on the soundtrack, and is in the film. (I believe these are two different versions, but have to verify.) Does anyone have any connection to the song beyond thinking of the film? Let’s see:

Vitamin.Deb:

This little ditty is very Beck, you know? Whatever that means. It’s got that self-described jankity guitar strum style of his. If I’d gone to see Nacho Libre not knowing that Beck had done some of the music, I’d have suspected it was him even without that minimal humming vocal he put into this. But of course, being one of the uberfans, one of the reasons I went to see the movie was because I knew he’d done some of the music. The only thing I remember about the movie itself is the scene with the corn cob. Good lord, I haven’t thought of that scene in a while. Terrible and hilarious. I know this song was not in that scene so it’s sort of irrelevant, but oh well.

AlmostAGhost:

I actually think this track is sort of, well, not much to think about. “10,000 Pesos” just doesn’t seem to me to have all that much effort behind it. It seems to be what Beck would come up with if you handed him a guitar and said “go!” He’d strum those chords in that beautiful way, hum a little, and his band would help out behind him. But perhaps I am underestimating what it takes to make such a recording. Or perhaps I am overestimating Beck’s creative genius.

Bebo

This is one of those songs that will always be tied to the movie it was in, for me anyways. I can almost see the scene from Nacho Libre playing in my head as this song plays. I believe it is the part where Nacho is sorta dejected and goes out alone into the desert or whatever. I get a feeling of quiet contemplation and acceptance of a somber situation (maybe this is just from the scene in the movie, but I think the music resonates the mood of the scene well). I love the simplicity of this song. The guitar strumming, and finger picking. Beck doing his signature humming in the background. A few other sparse instruments/sounds to add a little bit of decoration. Isn’t really a full song, but maybe phase or mood or snapshot of a moment.

Newtron:

Man, I have no idea what to say about this one. This project is hard.

I just listened to this on repeat a bunch of times, and all I can think of is that 1) it is pretty, and 2) I like Nacho Libre more than most people I think. There are some really great things about that movie, and I dare say some of it is beautiful. Perhaps I’ll expand on that more if I don’t have anything to say about one of the other Nacho songs.

In case you’re wondering:
10,000 Pesos = 1,013.82 U.S. dollars
10,000 Pesos = 1,042 Canadian dollars
10,000 Pesos = 42,725 Rupees
10,000 Pesos = 109,324 Yen
10,000 Pesos = 80,567 Icelandic Krona
10,000 Pesos = 3,586 Shekel
10,000 Pesos = 1,577 Brazilian Real

The madness that is “1000BPM” is next!

The Beck Oeuvre: Song #1 “.000.000″

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

This is a new blog series, where a select bunch of Beckfrx will share their reminiscences, thoughts, inspirations, interpretations of EVERY Beck song! How’s that for ambitious? The Beckfrx have all been fans for a long while, we’ve lived with these songs as long as possible, and hopefully have interesting things to say. Please add your thoughts in the comments!

We’re going alphabetically, and yes, we know this will probably take five years to finish.

Today’s first song: the always mysterious “.000.000“!

Newtron:

This has always been one of my favorite Beck songs. In my mind I group this in with ‘Lemonade‘. They were both among the first Beck b-sides I heard (Odelay was my first Beck album, and its singles were my first Beck singles). Both these songs were so different from what was on Odelay — so weird and non-commercial — and listening to them I started to realize that Beck was working on a lot more layers and levels than I had originally assumed. 16-year-old Dave loved it because it was fucked up and different, and 26-year-old Dave loves it because it rocks my ass (gently).

BTW, I pronounce this “zero hundred thousand”. What does everyone else say?

Breathmint:

listening to this song over and over makes it difficult for me to breathe. kind of scary.

Vitamin.Deb:

Funny, and probably somehow appropriate, that we begin with a track that evokes for me the horrors of backwardsness. (Is that even a word? Check the Becktionary.) Looking backwards, trying to live backwards. I’m not someone who knows much at all about the technical aspects of music, but it feels to me like there are one or more elements in this song that were recorded and then inverted, a la the little man in Twin Peaks. Anyway, yeah, so I’ve got someone close to me who can’t get over the past, who is hopelessly mired in it, and this song makes me think about that. Disquieting, cautionary.

Beck:

There were definitely lyrics and they were very meaningful. I think.

AlmostAGhost:

This song will always just be, to me, those nights I’ve spent, sitting in the dark, headphones on, listening to the song in tiny fragments, played over and over, *PAUSE* *REWIND* *PLAY* *REWIND* *PLAY*, trying to figure out what those lyrics are. And never succeeding.

And finally here is an unofficial “inverted mix” of the song, which (ever so slightly) emphasizes the vocals, and has a cool drum sound.

Up next: “10,000 Pesos”!