Following up the Nick Cave post from the other day, this is part two of the “guys can write break up albums too” series. I noted that Cave’s “breakup album” earned him the highest praise of his career thanks to a sharp style change. Beck Hansen rewrote that script in 2002 with Sea Change, written about a break up with someone he refuses to name. Given that he’s been romantically linked with Winona Ryder and Gina Gershon, it’s clear inspiration was all around him.

Sea Change

Beck burst onto the scene in 1994 with Mellow Gold, an album that put hip hop, folk, electro and noise rock into a big casserole topped with Beck spices. Each album that followed managed to fuse multiple genres and question the very meaning the genres themselves, it felt like he was somehow exploring old ground and breaking new at the same time. In 2002, that Beck has died and Sea Change is his dirge.

The instrumentation is grave and plodding. The layered production includes string arrangements, piano and acoustic guitar mostly, the turntables of yore have been kept in the basement. Opening track “Golden Age” and closer “Side Of The Road” both meander until they just simply fade away. One album, one mood; the post relationship hangover. It takes a special woman to take a musical swinger down to a one genre man.

Beck’s first and most popular single “Loser” asked, “I’m a loser baby so why dont you kill me?” Of course in 1994 that was tongue in cheek and packaged with radio friendly beats. In 2002 it sounds like  Beck is asking the same question, but the wit has withered away. Forget soul searching, this is soul imploding. Don’t believe me? Just try to get the ghostly backing vocals on “Little One” out of your mind.

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