Static 2
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Static 2 (4:14)
    Available on Mutations.
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    John Sorensen: Engineer
    Nigel Godrich: Engineer, Mix, Producer
    Beck Hansen: Guitar, Producer, Vocals
    Smokey Hormel: Guitar
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Keyboard / Synthesizer, Organ
  2. Plague
Static 2 [Version (a)]:

It's so easy to laugh at yourself
When all those jokes have already been written
Seems like another vain attempt
To let yourself fall out of the oven
Holy mountains, they look so tired
And it's a perfect day to lock yourself inside

Who're you fooling if the fools are right?
It's the same thing but it's almost as different
Hard to tell when it pacifies your mind
And leaves you stranded with a broken engine
Lazy desert looks so mangled
Let me drown in a convalescent bliss

Get up from your bed of rest
It's been a long time since you've lived
But the static in your mind leaves you hollow and unkind
With a shock electric wave turns you on

You've been flunked out of the devil's house
Delinquent hygienes are so abrasive
And some distortion that's never been known
On the treadmill, you'll be running forever
Holy mountains, they look so tired
And it's a perfect day to lock yourself inside

We go, we go
Plague [Version (b)]:

Taking off for the ??
Who would gamble such a ??
Lady luck will never rest her head
Wild cards ??

Feel the testaments of puzzles and pagans
Upon the treadmills of the borderlines
They're waiting for the ??
They're lonesome ??
While the ??

There's a plague, just let yourself go
The chances are lost ??

And the travels like a ??
Who could turn on her face
With a shock electric wave

I don't mean it, but it's all the same
There's ???
Who are you foolin' when the fools are right?
You can make it flat as the ??
One dimension, a vacant lot
Kill the jukebox one more time
The Song:

"Static" can be found on Mutations. Despite sharing a title with an earlier, unreleased song, the two songs have little in common.

This song though began life on stage in 1995, then called "Plague." It did not make it on to Odelay. Beck used the music from "Plague" a couple of years later for "Static" on Mutations, but rewrote most of the words. The one version of "Plague" I have heard that is (relatively) clear is transcribed above, and has references to lines which would show up throughout Odelay ("puzzles and pagans" on "Jack-ass") and even some lines which return on "Static" ("who are you foolin'...").

The final lyric is a wonderful composition, one of Beck's most poetic, and it fits perfectly with the music. Beck doesn't fill in the blanks, leaving it particularly open to wide interpretation.

Stepping back then, I think the song is generally just exploring the feeling of "the blues." (Maybe that's stepping too far back, as most of his songs could be seen that way, haha.) The first verse seems to be a portrait of someone feeling hopeless, maybe beat down and weary. This really quickly paints a picture of a man with his head down, sick of making vain attempts at improvement. When the fools are right, that's a pretty defeated place to be.

These feelings are harsh, and tricky, and will "pacify your mind," leaving you "stranded with a broken engine" (a call to Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine Blues").

All the static, noise, pollution, information pacifies your mind. Makes it hard to think, feel, be. To just want to lock yourself inside for a day.

Beck does hint at hope on "Static," though. Tiny important slivers of hope -- the "shock electric wave" being the key one here, the moment of inspiration that can either help you through the blues, finally motivate you, and keep you moving forward.


Played live 8 times:
Earliest known live version: June 21, 1995
Latest known live version: July 7, 2001

For reasons I cannot figure, "Static" has been played on stage just about the least of all his songs on any of the major label albums. Since Mutations was released, Beck has played "Static" just four times.

1995: PLAGUE

Like the rest of Mutations, "Static" was a much older song, originating years before it was recorded. In 1995, there are some setlist reports and bootleg evidence of a song called "Plague." The arrangement is almost identical; just the lyrics are different. The sound quality of the recording is too poor to discern much of the words. The music and vocal melody feels a little more forced than the natural, more laidback ease of the album version.  

I'm going to assume it showed up a few other times in 1995 that we don't know about too though.


There was not many shows in support of Mutations proper, and even fewer had "Static." In fact, only one did, and it was at the show in January (when most shows on that tour were a few months later). Beck seems to have difficulty getting the lyrics out, and overall the performance sounds a bit strained. Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.'s piano is a highlight and sounds very pretty hovering over the song. They find the groove a bit by the end.


Beck played the song two times during some post-Vultures special gigs. One, on October 29 2000, was a little dusty, but it was beautiful. It sounds much more like a folk song. I think it's just a couple of acoustic guitars? Maybe just one? Hard to tell for sure. Beck did again alone on July 7 2001 at a short set opening for Radiohead.

It has not been played since 2001.