SummaryThough 1998's MUTATIONS was the closest Beck had come at the time to conventional troubadourisms, he quickly declared the album a detour and swiftly followed it up with the Prince-influenced about-face of MIDNITE VULTURES. It comes as something of a surprise, then, that he should focus his subsequent efforts on an unprecedentedly earnest singer-songwriter album like SEA CHANGE, which finds him purposefully peeling away his multiple levels of irony. Trumpeted in the press as a post-breakup album, SEA CHANGE has been called Beck's BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, and it's true that he'd never been anywhere near this emotionally naked before.
Sonically, he seems to have (at least momentarily) laid aside his R&B/hip-hop aspirations in pursuit of a late-'60s/early-'70s folk-rock aesthetic. Several cuts have a lazy, Gram Parsons-like country-rock tinge. On "Round the Bend," he delivers a moody, string-swathed lament obviously modeled on Nick Drake's "River Man." While some might lament the departure of the word-spinning wiseguy, SEA CHANGE still seems an inevitable and important step in Beck's artistic maturation.