With ODELAY, Beck’s second helping of sampladelic, hip-hop inflected alt-pop, Beck took his white-kid-with-a-sampler schtick as far as it could go (which in his capable hands, was farther than anyone else could have taken it). An artist of commendable taste and natural instinct, he followed it up by going the only route possible–straight-ahead singer/songwriter pop/rock. That’s not to say this genre-hopper doesn’t take a few interesting left turns, as on the Brazilian-flavored “Tropicalia,” but gone are the hip-hop beats, sampled backdrops and semi-raps of the past. In their place are solid, inventive, pop/rock arrangements played by Beck’s regular touring band.
And the irrepressible Mr. Hansen inserts more melody into the songs here than anyone would have thought likely; he’s just plain singing more. Though there’s no lack of humor inherent in MUTATIONS, Beck’s dropped the off-handed jokiness of his previous work as well, coming as close to earnestness as a postmodernist like him can. The amazing thing (and the testament to his enduring artistic worth) is that he pulls it off so well. In its own way, MUTATIONS is every bit as rewarding as MELLOW GOLD or ODELAY.